Sunday, July 27, 2014

Reason(s) for my Negativity

On Tuesday of last week, my last day at work before going on a long vacation which included trips to San Diego for Comic-Con and to London for WorldCon, a colleague asked me this question: 
"Why are you so negative?"  
I started to give her a glib answer as I typically do in such circumstances, but instead I thought and took a moment to think about it.  I tried to see if I could give her the most honest and truthful answer that I could think of.  My reply was: 
"Because, in my life, I get enough to survive but not enough to thrive."  
My colleague looked at me a moment.  She mulled over what I said to her.  She shook her head and said, "No.  That's not it."  
"Yeah.  OK."  I walked out of her office after that.  It was close, but it wasn't the answer.  Not the whole answer.  
I went to San Diego after that for Comic-Con.  It's taken some figuring on my part, and I had to talk with a former creative partner that was with me at the time, but I'm pretty certain that I've been going to Comic-Con every year since 1996.  Eighteen years.  Any child born the year I first went would be a full grown adult by now.  
It hasn't been the best of cons.  A cold I was fighting the last week at work settled in and I spent the first couple of days feeling run-down and tired.  I slept in each day, skipping the unencumbered writing session I look forward to on vacations like this.  Unencumbered by the necessity of cutting it short, even if I'm on a roll, in order to get ready for work.  
It hasn't been a bad con, though.  Not a productive con, in terms of getting something done, making some connection or pitching an idea to a publisher.  But not a bad one.  I've been thinking a lot about the question my co-worker asked me, trying to see if I could pinpoint the reason for the overriding negativity in my attitude toward life and work and such.  
There have been clues. 
Riding down on the train I met a young man named "Kamron."  Kamron was a very happy and pleasant guy, a little less than half my age.  One of the reasons Kamron is so happy and positive, I think, is because he is doing something he loves doing.  Kamron works for Apple Computers.  Not only that, he was recruited personally by Steve Jobs himself!  
His story went like this: After graduating from Harvard University with a degree in Computer Science (did I mention that Kamron struck me as a very bright guy?), he went to Stanford to get a masters in cryptology.  It was while attending classes in his major that a teacher, or a guest lecturer, I don't remember exactly which, told him he had to meet someone important and asked Kamron if he didn't want to come with him.  
Well, that "important person" was none other than Steve Jobs.  It seems that Steve also took a shine to Kamron, because he asked Kamron to come to his offices the next day.  When he arrived, Steve showed him to an empty office where he handed him a laptop that had some sort of problem with it.  He asked Kamron to see if he could fix it and left.  
About twenty minutes later, Steve returned and asked Kamron how he did.  Kamron told him he figured out the computer's problem and fixed it in about fifteen minutes.  
"Good," Steve said.  "You start tomorrow."  
"But, I..."  Kamron stammered.  "I'm getting my masters at Stanford."  
"No.  You're not," Steve said in return.  Kamron started the next day.  
One of Kamron's first projects was with the iPhone development team.  He worked on the camera for one thing.  Did you know that the aperture lens in the iPhone camera is made from sapphire?  It makes the clearest lens with the best resolution.  It makes the camera the most expensive part of the iPhone.  Kamron regaled me with stories about working at Apple.  It was clear that he enjoyed what he did. 
An artist friend of mine, with whom I've worked with in the past is like Kamron in this regard.  He said this weekend, "What I do for my job is what I do for my hobby."    
Sitting opposite me were two ladies from MTV.  They were going to Comic-Con to work on the Teen Wolf presentations there.  They made it clear, though, that there was no particular joy in going to the convention.  
"We're going there for work," one said flatly to me.  She then explained that when they arrived, the would be ushered through the "back way" and through the "warehouse part" of the convention center.  They would do what they needed to do then leave the same way they came in.  They never got to see any of the stuff going on above.  After Comic-Con, they'd be traveling to another show to put on another presentation.  They would keep doing this throughout the convention season. 
I found myself thinking about where I would fit in the spectrum running from Kamron at one end of the arc, and the MTV ladies on the other.  
One of the reasons I go to Comic-Con is to get over my negative feelings.  My assumption has been been that spending most of my time in the "real" world, surrounded by "normal" people, is the source of my negativity.  I've referred to the time in San Diego, and at other conventions, as being something like an "normalcy enema," where all those real world concerns get flushed out of my system.  
It's not working as well as well as it used to in the past, though.  Maybe a little stiffness in the nerd-pipes comes with age, just as one's physical body gets more and more out of joint.  I can feel time and opportunity running out.  
As I do every year since he started coming to the convention, I make a point of hearing J. Michael Straczynski speak.  The creator of Babylon 5 is like a preacher in the Church of Creativity and Self-Belief.  He will tell you how he is the least likely person in the world to succeed has he has done in the fields of comic books and science fiction television.  By the time he was seventeen years old his family had moved twenty-eight times in order to avoid creditors due to their poverty.  Growing up he lived in the worst neighborhoods and attended the worst schools, he'll tell you.  But now, he has his own studio, has been nominated for and won numerous honors, and is one of the leading creators in visual medial today.  
"If I can do it, anyone can do it," he told the people attending his spotlight panel.  All that counts is that you pursue your passion.  If you do that, he insisted, you can find gold.  
Pursue my passion.  His words made me think about how I came to the decision, or realization perhaps, that I wanted to become a professional writer.  I thought back to when I read "Tunnels in the Sky" when I was in Jr. High School.  Or about the same time, when I bought my first copy of Dungeon & Dragons, and how my friends would have me be the DM because I created better and more detailed adventures than they did.  I remembered how, back then, I told my best friend at the time how great it would be if I could DM for a living.  
That's my forgotten passion.  To be a DM for the world.  To take people on adventures in worlds made real from my imagination.  When I wrote that down in my journal, after writing a page of all the possible reasons for my negativity, I started feeling much less negative.  Maybe even, dare I say it, a little bit positive.  
I'll try to keep it in mind the next time I get asked such a question.  


Post a Comment

<< Home