I may have just had an epiphany.
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t the idea of an epiphany that you suddenly realize that you’ve had one? Sure, I suppose that’s true enough, but what I’m saying is that I think I just talked myself into one. Let me explain.
I have spent the last day reading (finally) Bruce Campbell’s autobiography If Chins Could Kill. I’ll be honest, I’m a big BC fan, and I knew that I was going to enjoy reading about the exploits of my favorite “B-movie” actor. I actually kind of hate the phrase “B-movie” because it can belie a project’s validity. There have been some big-budget B-movies and some “low-budget” productions that are exemplary in their story-telling and production; a good project is a good project.
Anyway, back to the Bruce Campbell epiphany.
I finished the book, and I was, as I expected to be, extremely entertained by Bruce’s anecdotes about his various projects from his pre-“Evil Dead” days through the writing of the book (2001), including Briscoe County Jr, Hercules, and Xena. However, in a rope-a-dope maneuver that bears a striking similarity to Bruce’s acting career, towards the end of the book he veers away from the humorous into a very thoughtful examination of his place in the Hollywood machine. Having become more concerned about the process and personal gratification he got from his work, he was able to forgo the need to become, or even try to become, a “movie star.”
How does all this tie in to my epiphany? I’m getting there.
As I was filling my water-bottle from the cooler, I continued to think about how personal satisfaction had become a very big for Bruce, and how I have, since my retirement, taken jobs for many of the same reasons as he had throughout his career.
I took my first post-Air Force job so that I would HAVE A JOB. Gotta pay the bills, right?
I later took a job that paid less AND gave me fewer hours (double-whammy to the wallet—much love to my wife for supporting me on THAT decision) so that I had the available time to finish up my Master’s degree; even though I didn’t necessarily garner any personal satisfaction from that job, it was a tool for me to accomplish what I wanted to do (complete my degree—thank you, GI Bill), and for that I will always look back at my time in that thoroughly unpleasant environment with gratitude; not for what I did there or how I was (or wasn’t) treated, but for what it allowed me to accomplish elsewhere.
Once I finished my degree work, I found a full-time job again that was (and is) more enjoyable than the last one.
And, having decided to use the time that I wasn’t working to do the “work” that I really wanted to do, I began to write in earnest. Having to keep a day-job makes this challenging, of course, but we do what we have to do, right?
Anyway, my meandering train of thought eventually led me back to a little something that I have told the people I’ve worked with/for since my military time: “done” is my favorite word.
Why? Because “done” provides options. “Done” gives you flexibility to do other things, or to correct what you’ve screwed up before it’s too late. “Done” is a powerful word, one which carries with it a sense of satisfaction that no other word does.
“NOT-done” means that you are still beholden to that task, whatever it is. It is a weight on your shoulders, a chain around your neck, a barrier to anything you might want to do.
I have applied this theory to every job I’ve held.
Except one: my writing.
Up until now, it is as if I’ve decided that if I’m never “done” writing, then I can’t face the rejection that will invariably accompany the rest of the process. Sounds good, right: pain avoidance.
But if I’m never “done,” if I never finish a project and move on to another, then I’ll never have a chance to know if what I’ve done is worth anything to anyone but myself. And if that feedback can’t be gotten, then what is the point in the first place?
Be “done.” Be happy with it (or just give up on it) and put it out there. Move on to the next project. Put it out there. Move on to the next project. Don’t put it off. Don’t find reasons NOT to do it. Make the time. There are authors publishing today (one in particular comes to mind, but I’ll keep the name to myself) that seemingly finish a novel a week, all while posting nearly continuous blog entries about their prolificness (yes, it’s a word—I looked it up). I’m not commenting on the quality of what they are putting out, but rather acknowledging their apparent dedication to being “done” with their projects and moving on.
And so, finally bringing this circuitous discussion back to the beginning: thank you, Bruce Campbell, for starting the train that led me, inexorably, to the destination I so desperately needed to reach.
Epiphanyville. Population: ME.
Time to get to work.