I graduated from my Master of Fine Arts program from Florida International University at 25-years old, which seemed like an impressive feat at the time. When I finished my MFA, I moved from Miami to Los Angeles, and I thought I was a pretty hot-shit writer about to head to one of the most creative cities in the world. In fact, I thought I was moments away from turning my thesis into a best-selling book, and I wasn’t worried about finding writing motivation to finish countless drafts while working long days at many different jobs. Honestly, it felt like I had already arrived.
In fact, I look back on that version of myself, a totally delusional version of myself, and realize that it’s kind of embarrassing. I remember asking one of my professors how long it took her to publish her first book after graduation, and she said, four years. At the time, four years after graduate school felt like such a long time to publish a book.
Now, I just turned 35-years old, and it’s 10 years since I graduated from my MFA program, and I don’t have a book. I have published a decent amount of non fiction and some fiction, and I have a great career where I practice my craft every day, but I know I still have a long way to go to accomplish my life goal: Filling an entire shelf with books I have written, and those books have to be worth the trees that were sacrificed. I want people to actually read the books, not just let them sit there and collect dust.
And even though so much time has passed since I graduated, I know I need to dig deep to still make my dreams come true. It’s hard to stay motivated though, especially with all that is happening in the world.
That’s why I put together a list of ways to find writing motivation. When I was researching for this blog, I read a lot of the other posts about finding writing motivation, and I realized the advice was terrible. They give trite advice like “set deadlines” and “commit to writing.” It’s time to actually hear some real advice. Let me keep it real with you.
Today is my first father’s day as a Dad, and while it was a marvelous occasion so far, I realized I was spending a lot of time thinking about being a dad and what it means, somewhat taking me out of the moment. While the day was incredible, there was something at the back of my mind, some darkness, that I couldn’t shake. I’ll try and explain.
Of course, father’s day is a special time for a first time Dad, and my wife made sure we celebrated in the ways only I would have wanted. For instance, I drove to Coronado and brought Remy to the beach. We walked close to the shore, and he felt how cold the Pacific Ocean is even in the summer. I pointed out the Sand Dollars on the beach, and I let him put his feet in the sand.
He looked perplexed by the heaving, gun-metal blob making a tremendous amount of noise in front of him. Part of me thought he was terrified by the immensity of the Pacific. He held onto me tightly. The other part of me thought he wanted to swim.
On the way back to the car, I carried him in my arms, and he laughed the entire way as if he already knew the secret to life and found it hilarious that no one else could see it. The Tao of Remy.
Remy fell asleep in the car. To let him continue napping, we drove aimlessly throughout the city, into Sherman Heights and Barrio Logan, and we drove past Chicano Park and gazed at the murals. When we came home, I read him books and watched him crawl around his room, and then my wife made me scrambled eggs and cinnamon rolls. Then I played guitar as loud as I did before becoming a Dad. It was the best day.
But there was something else there. Something that was just beyond my ability to articulate. I couldn’t quite see it, but I knew it was dark. It was hanging at the back of my mind.
Yesterday at work (over Zoom of course) my colleague told me that I should take a vacation. He basically sees me sending emails late at night, the green dot next to my Slack name on at all hours of the day, and I’m constantly juggling different responsibilities. He is right. I should take a break and remember how to waste time, but the truth is: I don’t know what else I would do with myself except work if I took a vacation.
During COVID-19, we’re all (hopefully) stuck inside, and while there are many substantial challenges–from financial to mental health to physical health–there is a minor challenge that feels exponential difficult: How do I spend my time?
Let’s be real: When there is so much uncertainty about the world, work, in all of its glory and the dull moments, can be satisfying. Since I can do everything I could do at home as I could in the office, I am very busy, and knocking things off my to-do list was a form of control over the unpredictable. Being able to focus on clear, tangible tasks was a way for me to forget the viruses flying around my community like modern-day plagues.
But now that we’re almost seven weeks into quarantine, I have come to feel that the time we have inside our homes can be used in wonderful ways, and the only way to really take advantage of this moment is to figure out how to waste time with passion.
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
Being alone in our room with our thoughts is challenging for many reasons. So, stop doing that. You don’t need to embrace the existential crisis of humanity during COVID-19. I recommend wasting time and enjoy the seconds tick by, because, truthfully, that is really all we have. In my ultimate guide to wasting time, I’ll share tips on the following aspects that span streaming to reading to music:
As I write, highly sophisticated viruses are buzzing throughout the city of San Diego, our country, our globe, trying to get me and you sick. They do not have any ill-will toward me in particular, and they’re just trying to survive and multiply, which is what their DNA has programmed them to do. In a similar vein, I’m doing what my DNA had programmed me to do: protect my family and keep us healthy. How am I doing this? I’m staying in our home in San Diego. While I’m home, it’s easy to be negative, knowing there is an invisible bug altering out lives. But this negativity is as contagious as the virus, and I needed to find a way to question how to be more positive during crisis.
If some of the words above sound familiar to you, then it’s because you love George Orwell as much as I do. I tried to model the language above from his famous essay, “England Your England,” which was written during the Blitzkrieg in World War Two. He wrote his essay during one of the most trying times in the history of our world, and somehow, he managed to find an opportunity to think and create while Nazi bombs bursted over his head. My gut is telling me to begin my blog by echoing one of my favorite authors because Orwell can teach us something today. His essay began with this famous line:
“As I write, highly civilized human beings are flying overhead, trying to kill me.”
Recently, General Mills announced they’re bringing back one of my all-time favorite snacks: Dunkaroos. As a kid in school in the 90s, I remember peeling back the film on the plastic container of the Dunkaroos, licking the frosting off the film, then dunking the cookies into the frosting with as much drama as possible to ensure that the kids at my table might be jealous enough to consider a trade next time.
Once I read about Dunkaroos, memories blossomed in my mind the same way Anton Ego, the critic in Pixar’s Ratatouille, is instantly transported to a memory of his mother when he eats the Ratatouille made by a rat named Remy. Just from the mere mention of the word Dunkaroos, school lunch, my friends, the classes, the teachers, it was all so vivid in my mind suddenly.