Saturday, October 10, 2015

A S**t Sandwich with Ketchup and Mayo Only, Please!

I'm planning a trip to Japan in the spring.  It's been about eight years since I was there last.  I was hoping that the 2017 WorldCon was going to be there to give me the excuse I needed to motivate me, but Helsinki won instead.  As a result, I'm telling myself to give up the excuses and do what I need to do to get there.  
As part of my effort, I went online to see how much airfare to Japan would cost.  Using the American Express travel site, I found a range of prices from about a thousand dollars to around fifteen hundred from a number of airlines I recognized.  
But one there was on airline that was offering round trip airfare for a little over $600.  I had never heard of this carrier: China Eastern Airlines.  With a fare that low, I figured there had to be a catch. 
Turns out, there is.  After posting questions to friends on Facebook and reading reviews on Yelp, it seems that the overall impression of the airline is pretty bad.  They had three listings on Yelp, the highest rated of which was two stars.  People wrote paragraphs describing one airline horror after another.  Every flight was late.  Kept on hold for an hour before the automated system hung up.  Food was horrible, even by airline standards.  One reviewer posted pictures of her luggage with gaping holes torn in them that weren't there when she handed the luggage over at check-in and boarded the plan.  
There was was one reviewer whose review was useful to me, though not in deciding on whether or not to use China Eastern Airlines.  This guy had his own list of problems he had on the flight.  It was a laundry list of problems we all sometimes experience when traveling, all bound up in one horrific trip.  At the end of the review, though, he admitted that he has flown China Eastern Airlines before.  Several times, in fact.  The purpose of his review wasn't to dissuade other people from using the carrier.  It was letting them know what they were getting into if they decided to buy a ticket on one of their flights.  For him, the cost savings was enough to use them.  If others were willing to put up with the same sort of shit to save several hundred dollars, then go ahead and use them.  
I'm not one of those people.  Not when it comes to flying.  But it reminded me of something else I found online while trying to figure what to do with my life.  
It's a blog posting by a writer named Mark Manson, posted in September, 2014.  The title of the posting is, "7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose."  Mark rejects the idea of a Life Purpose as being something given to us from on-high that we have to search creation to find.  For him, a Life Purpose is doing something important with the little time we have on this planet.  Doing important things gives our life meaning and happiness.  Unimportant things just waste the time we have.  So, it's better to find things to do that are important.  To find those things, he provides seven odd questions to help focus your attention on them. 
The first one is the one that I keep remembering.  It's also the one that inspired the title of this blog entry: "What's your favorite flavor of shit sandwich and does it come with an olive?"  
The premise of the question is that everything you do, even the most enjoyable activities, even the thing you've decided is your Life Purpose, will suck sometimes.  Long hours of practice.  Having your work rejected.  Failure.  It happens.  The question, or the answer to Mark's question, is to find something important to do, something you enjoy doing so much, or is so important to do, that you're willing to deal with the crappy, sucky parts to see it to completion.  
For the Yelp reviewer, saving enough money to be able to travel to places he's not been to before was important enough to chow down on the particular noisome sandwich of flying the aforementioned airline.  As one who likes to travel, I can understand that.  To a degree.  I know people who refuse to fly economy to get anywhere.  The experience of flying is such that they have to have the comfort level of business class at least, first class if possible, in order to endure it.  For me, wanting to get to the places I've been, I'm willing to deal with some crowding and inconvenience in order to save enough money to get there.  
When it comes to travel, then, my shit sandwich is something like a burger slider, heavy on the spicy mustard of my anticipation of the enjoyment I'll have when I get there.  Something I can pop in my mouth, chew it up and swallow it down in one bite.  The reviewer that has flown on China Eastern Airlines a number of times apparently enjoys big footlong excrement subs, piled high with very little dressing on the bun.  To answer the second half of the question, the reviewer's sandwich has an olive.  Mine doesn't.  
I came across Mark's blog while trying to use the internet as a sort of crystal ball.  I've had a flip-flop in my view on my writing recently.  In August, I was feeling pretty good.  I had just finished a workable draft of my novel and sent it to some writer-friends of mine to alpha read.  I was working on a sample script to give to a former creative partner of mine with an "in" at an animation studio.  I had met someone at a convention that worked as a futurist, writing science fictional treatments as part of the work of a consulting firm to help big companies figure out the direction they want to go in the next fifteen to twenty years, that held out the possibility of getting freelance gigs doing the same.  The future seemed filled with possibilities.  
Now, those possibilities are feeling more like mirages.  The initial feedback on my novel isn't good.  I knew it needed work, but...  This Much?  The script is bogging down in the details (working with a famous comic book character that's famous about leaving clues about their deeds in a particular way that's REALLY hard to recreate).  And after going through the set-up process with the futurist consulting firm, I've had no response since then.  
It happens.  This is part of my shit sandwich when it comes to writing.  It's the part that I have the biggest problem with that's the hardest to deal with.  The sense of rejection.  The feeling that what you do isn't good enough.  That after all these years of working at it, I'm still not quite good enough to get an outright, "Yes!" or "It was terrific!" or "Here you go, the breakthrough you've been dreaming of!"  
It colors your perception of things.  During this time period, I received my notice from the people that run Comic-Con in San Diego that I'm due to validate my status as an attending professional.  Every three years you fill out a form where you list your most recent credits.  They decide if you qualify as a "Professional Writer."  If they say yes, then you get put on their list and register to go to the convention for free.  
I am 99.9999997% certain that I'll be approved again this year.  It will be my twentieth year as a validated professional.  
I've still not sent the forms in.  Instead of looking at them thinking, "Great!  Twenty years a Pro!  That's an accomplishment!" I've been feeling more like, "What'll I do in three years from now if I don't have anything more published by then?"  
It's time for a conclusion to this essay, so I guess I'll say that...  I'll just have to deal with it.  Take it one page at a time, or one bite at a time, and do what I need to do in order to have stuff done by then.  Rewrite the novel.  Find that character's voice in the script.  Follow up with my contact and say, "Hey...  By any chance, you have something you want me to write for you?"  
Bite.  Chew.  Swallow.  Put a little mayonnaise and ketchup on the bun, hold the veggies.  That's how I like mine.  


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