Book Progress Update

Remember when I challenged myself to finish a rough draft of a book by the end of this year? Well, I figured publishing progress updates would help me stick to that pledge.

So, here goes update #1:

I haven’t started it.

Get out of my way, me

I will be 31-years-old this April. You would think that would mean I’ve got my life figured out. Steady job, wife, house, kids on the way, etc. While I do have a steady job and I do have a girlfriend, I don’t feel anywhere close to feeling like I’ve got my life figured out. I used to think that was a problem. And that’s pretty much only because I kept telling myself that it was a problem.

It’s taken me this long in my life to realize the biggest obstacle any person has to overcome in their life is themselves. (Obviously I’m referring to us privileged ones over here in the developed Western World.) Lest you think this is turning into a new age blog about spirituality and finding yourself and all that, I’m simply writing about it because I’ve yet to meet a single person (out of those I know well) who has mastered the art of keeping themselves out of their own business. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you probably haven’t yet realized how you get in your own way.

Only you prevent yourself from being better at your job, admitting your job isn’t right for you, recognizing and embracing the best parts of your relationships, and from changing the way you do these things. In fact, you’re likely the cause of most of your own hang-ups and problems.

Sure, there’s alpha male types out there who “know what they want” and strive for success and money and everything we’re told will make us happy. They probably scoff at someone like me and I think I’m just a pussy who needs to get it together. But they’ll never understand where I’m coming from. They’re not self-aware enough to think that maybe they don’t have all the answers. They don’t stop to think about what they’re doing and why. They aren’t searching for the same kind of fulfillment.

The problem with being too self-aware, is that you start to over think aspect of your life until you can longer take any amount of joy out of it. Your job, your relationship, your friends, your family. Everything needs to be thought through and back again until it all feels wrong to you. By thinking too much, we stop ourselves from enjoying the living we’re supposed to be doing.

And here’s the part where I tell you the magical answer that will solve all your problems: there isn’t one. The only solution is to recognize when you’re getting in your own way. That’s really the only reason I’m writing this. It’s catharsis for me because I realized I’ve been actively trying to stop myself from changing in ways that’ll make me better. It feels good to write it down. But I’m still trying to stop myself from clicking “Publish.”

When’s Your Book Coming?

I had some friends over on New Year’s Eve, shortly after I started writing things on here again. (I refuse to say “blogging” even if that’s what this is.) They asked me why I had started again, why I stopped in the first place, and if I was going to write anything else.

I shrugged. I don’t know what this is. I don’t know what I’m doing with it. I’m not very good at committing to things, especially personal creative projects.

Then one of them looked at my bookshelf and noticed the debut novel of a friend of mine, The Dilettantes. He turned to me and asked, “When’s your book coming, Warren?”

I shrugged. I have only ever taken a crack at writing a book once, about five or six years ago. I entered the 3-Day Novel Contest and finished a roughly 50 page draft of a half-cooked idea. I sent it to my friend Michael who had already written a book, received his constructive criticism, revised the draft, and haven’t opened it since. I’m not sure why.

At the time, I remember thinking I had a decent idea for a book. Not that I would necessarily know it if I did. It seems like that when you do any kind of writing on a regular basis (especially if you do it as a job), people kind of expect you to eventually write a book of some kind. But it’s not an easy thing to do. At least I don’t think it is, I’ve never really tried it.

I think part of the problem is the writers expect so much of themselves that they think their first book will never be good enough. Actually, forget the first book. The first draft will never be good enough. We don’t stop to realize that maybe, just maybe the first one doesn’t have to be perfect. We do revisions on our writing all the time but somehow expect ourselves to write something on that scale perfectly on the first go. I mean, I’m almost certainly going to come back and find grammatical errors in this after I have posted it. I’m going to write those revisions. So why can’t I write a book?

Partly because I’m not sure what I would write about. I’m not sure I could pick up a five-year-old draft of a novel and continue working on it. I’m not sure it’s even a story I would want to finish. But I guess there’s really only one way to find out.

Maybe it’s all about holding yourself accountable? Let’s try that. I will finish a draft of a novel by the end of 2015. And it will be perfect.

Protecting children from everything, teaching them nothing

My five-year-old niece got an iPad for Christmas. I don’t say this in a condemning way, she is entertained and even educated by a number of games she was already playing on my Dad’s iPad. It makes since for her to have her own, even if she is only five. Another niece of mine (with different parents) got an iPhone around the age of 10. I didn’t have a cellphone until my second year of university and no one called me on it except my Mom. Parents are now giving their kids full reign of technology and the internet. So why are they trying to protect them from every other non-digital aspect of life?

The Huffington Post just reported on growing restrictions on tobogganing across North America. The fun police have struck again, just as winter gets going. These days, it seems like the fun police are parents. Sure, they let their kids have iPhones, PS4s, over-priced clothing and other things to assure their kids that they are “cool parents,” but they don’t seem to let them do much else. (Before I go on, I should admit that I am not a parent and have no conception of the constant fear one has for their child. But I was a kid once, with parents who weren’t over-protective.)

It starts with Purell (and hand sanitizer in general). The amount of times I have seen parents heaping goops of this stuff onto their kids hands before and/or after they go to the playground, into a mall or just anywhere outside their home, is mind boggling. What, exactly, are the parents protecting their kids from? Dirt? Other kids’ boogers? A killer germ pathogen known to be found on slides? I doubt parents even know. It’s probably a “just in case.” You wouldn’t want to be the parent whose kid catches ebola on the see-saw.

But everything parents are protecting their kids with these days is superficial. They aren’t actually teaching them how to protect themselves. Have you seen kids wearing helmets and shoulder pads while tobogganing? I have. And the reason cities are banning it from parks is because people are suing when they or their children get hurt. Even though kids are wearing helmets, it seems like they aren’t being taught how to calculate risk. They’re being taught that wearing a helmet will protect you! So don’t worry! Aim your toboggan for that pile of rocks if you want!

Considering kids get iPhones and iPads without being told they’re too young to have them, it’s no surprise that they start thinking they can get their way. And when things don’t go their way, it’s no surprise that they overreact. They don’t know how to deal with consequences. Crash your toboggan and scrape your chin? Clearly that’s the city’s fault for not having a sign warning about the potential dangers. Get a blister while climbing a ladder at the playground? Purell isn’t strong enough. So then kids get upset and cry and whine and parents get to thinking their kids should just stay inside. They’ll be safe playing X-Box or using their iPhones.

Parents give their kids iPhones under the guise of protection, too. If their kid has a phone, they can always know what they’re doing and where they are. But even with apps and software that allow parents to see everything their kid is doing on their phone, don’t you think kids are going to quickly come up with their own text message code that seems innocuous to parents while really it means something completely different? It’s the same way how when I was in grade 10, telling my Mom I was going to my friend Brad’s house for a sleepover was code for “We’re going to drink disgustingly cheap wine in a park.”

When you allow kids to take chances and make their own mistakes, they learn things. Just like I learned drinking terrible wine in a park in the middle of night isn’t really all that fun. I only drank three or four times in high school after that. I’m not saying every kid is going to learn the lesson you want them to learn, but you have to at least give them that chance.

This includes letting them go outside. Let them play on the playground without drowning them in Purell. Let them go tobogganing. Let them rollerblade down that big hill. Let them go out with their friends on Saturday night. It’s on you to tell them to be careful. If they aren’t, they’re going to learn that sometimes not everything in life is going to go their way.

Your divorced family isn’t blended

I’m a child of divorce. I have been as long as I can remember, since my parents split up when I was three. It’s a big part of who I am, for better and for worse. Being a child of divorce will affect you no matter who you are. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. What I don’t understand is the seemingly recent push to call divorced families “blended.” What does that even mean? I guarantee whoever came up with that term has parents that are still married to each other.

“Blended” implies that families coming together after divorce, through remarriage and otherwise, do so seamlessly. And I just don’t think that’s true. Divorce isn’t easy. Divorce is hard. Divorce sucks. Why do we need to pretend that it’s not?

Take a look at this ad from Honey Maid about a “blended” family. As a child of divorce — and, full disclosure, as an ad copywriter — it drives me up the wall.

This ad seems to be saying that divorce is perfectly normal. Children with divorce shouldn’t feel like they’re any different than the other kids at school. Well, guess what? They are different. To pretend otherwise is really unfair to the child. It’s okay to be different. It’s okay that your parents aren’t together anymore. And it’s okay to be unhappy about it.

I get that this ad is trying to say that being a kid of divorce is okay, but it’s also essentially celebrating divorce. That’s what gets me. This is not something to be celebrated. It is an extremely hard, devastating and life-altering thing. People absolutely recover from it and build new, happy lives and families, but they sure as shit don’t do it with the help of the wholesomeness of some Honey Maid crackers.

I have four parents. That’s how I see it. My two biological parents and my two stepparents. But that doesn’t mean I have a blended family. It means I have two families. And these families have pretty clearly defined lines, in my mind. We don’t all get together and have picnics on the beach and celebrate our blendedness with smoothies and other allegorical snacks. Each family has their own get-togethers, events, dinners, problems, memories, etc. That’s just the way it is. And, as I keep repeating myself, that’s totally okay. It is different from families with parents who are still together, but it’s still okay. That’s what kids of divorce should be told.

I’d love to see an ad that documents this kind of reality for divorced families. Not cherry picking one where both sides get along and everyone can stand to be around each other and everything is peachy and suitable for a weeknight media buy. This ad is based on a false insight. Sure, both sides in some divorced families get along. But most don’t. And I’m not just basing that on my own experience.

People get divorced for a lot of reasons. A big one of those is that they don’t really want to see the other person again. They don’t divorce with the goal of meeting someone new and then keeping their ex spouse around as their best bud. They move apart. They separate. They don’t want to be together anymore.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest a new term for what people do when they divorce: they unblend.

I have no idea what I’m doing

I haven’t written a blog post like this in about four or five years. I used to write them all the time. They varied from embarrassing drunken confessionals in university to embarrassing sober holier-than-thou rants for the university newspaper. A lot of depth to my work, I know.

For the last five years, I’ve been making my living as a copywriter for advertising agencies. Something about having a day job where you write and/or think for eight plus hours a day makes you not want to rush back home to sit at your computer and write some more. Especially when you’re already getting paid to write, even if it is for an eye lash enhancing drug endorsed by Brooke Shields. Instead, I tried using my free time to try other things: photography, improv, stand up comedy, etc.

Those things were and continue to be great, but as cliched and corny as this sounds and reads, I felt like something was missing. Writing used to be something I always did when I wasn’t at school, when I wasn’t working a shit kitchen job, when I wasn’t trying to eke out a journalism career in Edmonton. It was always what I turned to at the end of the day. So I’m turning to it again.

I’m posting this today because god forbid someone thinks this is some kind of New Years resolution to get back to writing like I used to.

How fucking lame would that be?