Stuck

Dave's kissing spotWhat happens when the old ways of tricking yourself into action no longer work? I promised my writing group that I’d send them a new piece by the end of this month. I had been feeling stuck and needed some deadline, however fake, to get myself writing again. It usually works.

Not this time. I can see too easily through the ruse, having tried it too many times, I suppose. Or maybe this time I’m up against some questions I cannot avoid and still hope to get unstuck.

One: Do I really want to be writing? True, I have enjoyed five years of it. I like it as a means to express myself, to get my thoughts together and out in front of some people (a few, anyway). On a good day I can even convince myself that it is doing some potential good, helping people, teaching, healing wounds.

I like the craft and the challenge of it, and I can see myself improving. People seem to like my writing, unless they are just being nice, and I think that I actually am becoming a pretty decent writer. But, as with the visual art I used to do, I have never felt like it is something I am so driven by I could not stop doing it. Do I keep on? I’d like to.

The next question, one that has really got me stuck, is this: What do I write about? I am thinking in terms of writing fiction, mostly, and that has usually been about making stories out of my lived experience—more specifically, my love life. Those were the stories I wanted to tell. I could never figure out what else to write about, and could never understand how some writers seem to have a magical ability to write of things completely outside their lived experience. I am in awe of that skill. I don’t seem to have it. Not yet, anyhow.

This brings me to question whether I have anything new to say or any desire to make up new stories. And it makes me realize, slightly shockingly, that I have almost no interest anymore in the stories I’ve been working on for the past few years. They don’t seem to matter much. This feels suddenly not so much about my writing, but about my life.

You are the love of your life...yes youThe thing is, sometime in 2015, I stopped being interested in my romantic life. I stopped dating, stopped pursuing relationships, stopped caring if I was single, stopped getting crazy over sexy boys, stopped having sex, stopped even thinking about it, any of it. It just all went away.

This is partly a good thing. A big part. My obsession with being in relationships, in having a boyfriend, in having sex, had been a constant in my adult life from the time I came out more than 30 years ago (and there were quite a few torturous years before that as well). For all that time, I remained aware of my status as single or partnered, getting some or not, of keeping my body in shape, of pursuing constantly, of doing crazy and risky and ridiculous things, and judging myself for all of it.

What a heavy thing to carry for so long! Upon discovering I’d put that burden down somewhere along the way—not sure where or when exactly—I felt immense relief.

So much of my happiness and sadness had been tied up in the question of my coupling, and it became clear I had been living with a lot of mental pain for almost all of that time. Sure, I was happy in the moments things seemed to be working great, but those were fleeting. How much did I invest in the pursuit; and worse, how much in the trying to hold onto or recapture something good?

I came to realize the most basic of truths: This was not a source of happiness for me. It just wasn’t worth it.

Thinking back, I can remember starting 2015 with the idea in mind that it might be the year I gave up sex and romance. This was at a time I was still ostensibly happy seeing someone I liked a lot, mind you. It wasn’t about that. For some strange reason, I just got the idea in my head that it no longer mattered. It wasn’t important. I’d had a good run, and now I might want to stop working at it. Maybe forever, maybe for a while. It was not a concrete goal, just an idea, and I didn’t share it with most people.

Do You Want to Sleep with Dave X Robb?I did joke with a friend that I should have a going-out-of-business sale, and that showed I was maybe not so ready to give it up after all. But I didn’t announce the sale, or the plan, if there even was one; I just gradually stopped thinking about the same old things.

A few big things happened last year that no doubt supported this wish I’d planted in my own head—losing that guy, having big health problems, making huge leaps on my spiritual path—and it kind of happened without effort. It’s easy to not have sex, a lot easier than needing to have it.

I’d certainly entertain the idea of dating or partnering with or just having good sex with someone, and chances are I will do at least one (maybe two, probably not all three) of those things again someday; I’m just not willing to put in the effort. I don’t care that much. I like not caring about it, I really do.

Which brings me back to the writing. I find that I don’t care about my characters. Their problems seem relatively meaningless. Stay together, break up—I don’t care what they do.

A wise teacher once said to take the thing that is stopping you from writing, and make the writing about that. Well, I guess that’s what I’m doing right here. How this translates to my fiction, I’m not quite sure, but I am starting to form some ideas. I’ll send this to my writing group and see what they say.

 

Almost a birthday

Dave X Robb with tax formI KNOW I’M LATE. I was busy celebrating my semi-birthday. I’ve told you about all of these targets I’m putting on the calendar like the monthly writing retreat and the blog postings every 10 days, but I forgot about a fun one suggested by a friend: on the day of the month that corresponds to your birthday—for me, the 8th—do some new thing. It can be anything that you haven’t done before.

Fun, right? Do it for yourself! I had forgotten all about this monthly mini-celebration, but noticed it on the calendar a couple days beforehand (which just goes to show the beauty of putting things on the calendar). Luckily, I had just made plans to do something I had never done before: a tax sex date.

Yes, it’s what it sounds like. The idea came about spontaneously, as I happened to be chatting with someone I like to have sex with. We hadn’t seen each other for a while, and he also hadn’t done his taxes yet; next thing I knew, we had a tax sex date set! I don’t normally look forward to doing my taxes. Suddenly, I could hardly wait. I encourage those of you who are still procrastinating on tax-filing to give it a try.

As an interesting coincidence, I had been giving some thought lately to how sex fits into my life (or doesn’t), how it can be used as a distraction, and how chasing after that momentary (or hopefully a little longer) pleasure can cause a mighty amount of mental distress. As with all such important things in life, it comes down to motivation. I can approach sex from a needy, insecure place or choose to hold a serene, giving, loving perspective.

In this particular case, we seemed to agree: even sex as mere distraction (though one always aims higher) could be justified in the interest of getting our taxes done.

The beauty of this idea is the incentive system you can set up, rewarding yourselves for milestones reached—say, sending off the completed return or (for those with less will power) typing in all of your W2 information or (works for me) showing up at the door. Whatever it takes to get through the godforsaken process.

There is a down side: You might be tempted to rush through parts, making errors or missing some deductions. Your carefully sorted piles of receipts might get messed up. And, almost certainly, filing your taxes will take longer this way. In fact, I only got through federal and still need to do my state tax return. Who will I call?