Before I was published, the pressure was getting published.
Now, that I have a book coming out in less than a couple of months, I'm finding other pressures.
I have a plan for a sequel for Scar of the Downers, and I actually started writing it before I got the publishing contract. Now, I've been working on it, and I'm finding that it's really hard to write.
Change is hard for me. I was used to the struggle of trying to be published, and the feelings that went along with it. After 10 years of it, I now have to adjust to new insecurities, time constraints, and overthinking of things.
I mean, how do I prepare for something I've never been through?
Change: the inevitable evil that's sometimes good.
As you can see, I'm a cautious realist, not a pessimist. I look at things through a realistic lens with a bit of caution. No, I'm not footloose and fancy free. I think through of things. I weigh the good against the bad and then expect the worst. On the flip-side, my wife thinks she's an optimist. I just say she's flighty and sometimes delusional.
(Liz's reaction: So I'm butting in here, but I was reading this for Scott, and I feel I have to point out the obvious. Please, please go back and read that "Change..." statement. If that doesn't scream "pessimist" and "skeptic," I'm not even sure what a pessimist is! hmmm... I think the only "delusional" one here is the blogger himself. ;) I'll admit that I am not without my bitter feelings toward some things in life, like the wicked prospering, having to wake up early, or even some days of the week. However, I do believe that I mostly see the proverbial glass half-full.)
(My Reaction to Liz's Reaction: Liz is a public optimist, I'll give her that. She "fools" a lot of people into thinking that she is. I'm not saying she doesn't have her optimistic qualities or moments, but that's really the lesser argument... she thinks that I'm a pessimist, but I don't really agree. I'm a realist. Sure, a realist who sees the world through darker lenses, perhaps. But I'm still on the spectrum of realist. I don't believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but I'm a wait-and-see kind of guy with a shotgun in hand. I think Liz is lucky that she married me because I've probably saved her from many a hair-brained scheme, e.g. the planting of catnip around our house to prevent our cat from running away. You can read about that "great idea" in this post about the feline member of our household.)
(Liz's 2nd Reaction to Scott's Reaction: LOL. Well, I have to admit that maybe that whole catnip thing was NOT the best idea! But I still maintain my optimistic status in life, with maybe a touch of gloom (that's where the hating of some of the days of the week come in). Sorry for the sidetrack. Although this does give you a REALISTIC glimpse into our conversation life. We could go on like this for quite a while. And, I think that Scott's lucky that he married me, because he needs some positivity, am I right?!)
Anyway, that's what I'm dealing with right now. I'm not complaining, because this is what I've been working toward for what feels like a very long time. I just feel some trepidation and some anxiety now that is bleeding over into my creative life. It's hard to write, it's hard to plot. I'm glad I already have a framework for where I want to go, but the path is proving to be little difficult right now.
But, this is definitely a difficulty that I'm thankful for.
What is your happiest part of the day? Is it going to bed? Dinner time? Going to work? School?
Long before I was married, I had heard people say that the butterfly feeling you get in your stomach when you are dating eventually disappears. They had said that when two people are together for a while, the infatuation feeling ends.
Now this isn’t going to be a blog that says that the statement isn’t true… because it is. Butterflies don’t flutter in my stomach when my wife comes home from work or from the store, or anything like that. This is a good thing. I can’t imagine my stomach feeling like that every time I see her. How could one live like that?
But that is not to say something doesn’t happen.
Before I go any further, I have to say that I am an introvert. I don’t mind keeping to myself, which makes writing such an enjoyable career. The people I mainly interact with are imaginary. Having that as part of my personality also means that I keep many of my emotions to myself. I don’t LOL or anything like that. I may have done that a few times in my life, but I don’t make a habit of it. (And I never post it on Facebook) I’m not effusive, which has led people to assume I’m stuck-up, snobby, moody, grumpy, or whatever else people want to believe. All this to say… what I feel inside isn’t necessarily shown on the outside, which brings me back to my point.
One of the happiest moments of my day (whether I show it or not) is when I see my wife pull in the driveway. It is not because I am at home with the children all day by myself. It is because I genuinely like her; I like being around her. It goes without saying (though I’ll say it anyway) that I obviously love her. But it’s more than that.
When she walks in the room, I am a happier person.
I look at her and think, “There is a person that knows me. Really knows me. And in spite of that, she loves me.”
You see, my wife doesn’t give me butterflies anymore, but what she does is make me smile. Frankly, I even still get excited at seeing her (though I usually don't show my excitement).
But this happens within, so most of this is probably news to her.
This goes to show you that what you see isn’t always what you get. Sometimes there is more, sometimes less. In the end, there is no big point to be made in today’s post other than the simple truth: my wife makes me smile (even if it is on the inside).
What’s my priority in life? What’s the most important thing? When I die, what am I going to regret that I did or didn’t do?
I find my thoughts leaning this way lately, probably because of the New Year beginning, maybe because I’m in a pensive mood, or maybe because I’m in the midst of a midlife crisis, who knows.
There may be a misconception that I’m only a stay-at-home Dad because I can’t find a job. That’s somewhat true, but the reality is that if I weren’t the stay at home parent, my wife would be. She just happened to find the job outside of the home first, and I haven’t been able to find one as good. If I do, the roles will reverse.
Sometimes people might say, “Oh, that’s so nice that you can homeschool. That’s so lucky that you can have one parent stay at home with the kids.”
While that may be true in the sense that we are blessed that my wife has a job that makes (mostly) enough to cover all the bills, the reality is that we have to sacrifice a lot to make this happen (and it doesn’t always happen). I won’t go into it, but I’m sure you can imagine the many things we are not able to do because of our choice to have four children and have a parent stay at home with them. I guess it’s obvious that we don’t really see these peripheral things as being that important to us. Otherwise, perhaps we would make different life choices.
It all comes down to priorities.
This is the way it is for most people, I know. For the people who take family trips every year or invest in a large house or put in an in-ground pool or send their kids to private school, that’s their priority, that’s where they feel their family will benefit. I would not say to them, “Wow, you are really lucky” to do that. Those people have worked hard to make those things happen. And I’m sure they had to sacrifice things in life to do that.
I’m not a resolution type of person, but if I were, I would say that this year I want to make sure that I’m making the choices and choosing the priorities that are the best for my family. My wife and I have to ask ourselves, what will benefit our children the most? What do they need? For, if they were given to us, the expectation is that we must find out what they need, what will help them grow, what will make them thoughtful, caring, God-honoring adults.
What’s most important for a kid?
Is it putting them to bed at 7:00 or spending more time with them? Is it sending them to an institutional school or homeschooling? Is it being in gymnastics or playing on a soccer team? Are academics more important than learning empathy and compassion?
The battle for The Most Important Thing is constantly at play. My goal is to honestly and continually challenge myself to make the best decisions that I can at the moment that will hopefully set a foundation for our children that will carry them into the future.
Sometimes when I've told people my situation in life, the one where I would like to have a job, but I'm really a stay at home dad, I get a well-meaning response similar to this one:
"Oh, well you're such a good father! Your girls are so lucky!"
And, while this may sound good and encouraging, it's really pretty useless. There are a lot of good fathers with jobs that make enough money to support their wife and children. I don't see how being a good father must exclude me from employment.
(As a side note: I love being home with my girls. And if I were able to choose a situation I would love to be able to work from home and make enough money so that my wife wouldn't have to work. So this is not about me wanting to "get away" from my children. It is about me wanting to fulfill the dream of my wife - to stay at home with the kids. But back to the post at hand.)
It's easy to look at the bright side of things for someone else's problem.
I mean, you tell me your problem, and I (in my infinite objectivity), can see the potential or long-term good in it. I can tell you, with very little effort, actually, what lesson you are probably going to learn or what positive effects there will be.
In discussing this with my wife, she admitted that she has a bad habit of doing this. She says that it comes from a place of wanting to encourage me (or whomever) and trying to cheer me up.
I gave her a hint and I told her that it doesn't encourage me or cheer me up. In fact, sometimes it's downright irritating. Theories and philosophies on life do nothing for those who are struggling.
There's a reason the Bible says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." Wisdom from Romans.
But, also, I guess there is the verse (if we are playing Bible Verse War), that says "A man's wisdom gives him patience, it is his glory to overlook an offense." Wisdom from Proverbs.
So... I suppose I should overlook this offense, realizing that it comes from "a good place."
Why I bother to write this though, is not to complain, although that may be what it seems like, but to remind you that when people have problems, it's far better to just commiserate.
You could share a beer or a cup of coffee or something. Maybe this is a man thing. Maybe it's just me. I really don't know.
I'm not saying that encouragement is bad, but at times it can come across as condescending. In the end, I need to just be content in my situation, and that is something I need to work on. Not to sound belligerent, but no one giving me "advice" can change my perspective. I must.
I think I just want to explain how I feel without someone "correcting" my feelings (whether or not my feelings are right, wrong, true, a lie, or whatever.)
In the end, I love my children. I love when our family is together and at home. I do love being with them during the week when my wife is at work. As I get older, I am beginning to learn to savor these days. They will not be with me forever. When they are gone, they will be like the passing of a loved one. When they pass, I will miss them. I will mourn them. And I will not look on the bright side of their leaving.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.