I came to grips with something at the end of 2011: I’m not a writer.
Sure, I have some writing skills, and my thirty-odd non-fiction articles and a few published poems bear that out. But having skills is different than using them. Knowing some things about writing is not the same as writing, and that’s where I consistently fall short. Writing is active; knowledge is passive, and knowledge fades with lack of use.
So, if I’m not a writer, what am I? I’m a husband/father/computer technician/sole breadwinner. In the past, I have also been a writer/reader/amateur musician/gamer, but in the last few years, I have engaged in precious few of those artistic and entertainment pursuits, and that lack of creativity is wearing on me.
Some of the above responsibilities are not flexible. I can’t very well stop being a husband or father, nor do I want to. Being the sole breadwinner sometimes becomes tiring, but that’s not really negotiable. Lannette and I learned a number of years ago that her particular combination of disabilities make her incompatible with the 9-5 corporate working world, so the responsibility for regular income falls to me only.
The computer technician portion is the responsibility that I have the most control over, and still seems to intrude the most on my everyday life. It’s my job, for one thing, but it’s also my hobby and an occasional source of outside income. I never charge market value for my computer consulting work, not because I don’t think I’m worth it, but because I think the prices for service in the computer industry are wildly overinflated, especially compared to the worth of the machines themselves. I don’t make much from computer consulting, but I do get a good feeling from knowing that I’ve helped someone solve a problem while saving them money. That “Mr. Goodwrench” feeling only goes so far, though, and more often than not, when I have my head stuck in the side of a computer, or I’m trying to wrap my brain around some bit of confusing PHP code while the clock ticks and a client’s website delivers database errors, I find myself wishing I was doing something else entirely.
I think it’s time to cut back on the computer consulting. I won’t drop my current web hosting and regular consulting clients, but I’m not going to take on new clients. If clients drop off for reasons of their own, I won’t look to replace them right away, if at all. I need to build some creativity and entertainment time back into my schedule, and when I get there, I need to own and enforce it.
By this time next year, I hope I can look back and say that I’ve written a few more short stories and poems, made some progress on that mythical novel, and learned to play some songs that I’ve always wanted to learn on guitar. Maybe I will have even sold a piece of fiction or two, if I’m lucky.