I decided that this year would be my big push year. I wrote a list of the scripts I’m going to write and the projects I’m going to get done. I looked for classes that would specifically help me with those projects and signed up. I’m entering ALL the contests. This is the year.
You know that old Simpsons scene with Sideshow Bob and the rakes? Sideshow Bob is out to kill Bart, and he tracks the family down where they’re hiding and sets off to find Bart, but he takes a step and immediately a rake flies up and hits him in the face. He regroups, changes direction, takes a step, and… another rake. He regroups, takes a step… another rake. You get the idea. The scene goes on for a really long time. (Comedy writers use it as an example of a joke that goes on so long it stops being funny and then actually gets funny again.) The point is, I feel like I keep stepping on rakes. And then I had a realization.
Trying really hard ALWAYS feels like stepping on rakes.
That’s how it is for everyone. That’s why most people don’t try really hard all the time. There’s WAY fewer rakes if you’re not trying something new. And it made me feel much better to know that this feeling of getting hit in the face isn’t just me, and it isn’t just this year. Putting off my goals wouldn’t make them easier. And I’m not cursed. I just need to keep powering through.
Not getting into all the classes I want.
A death in the family, necessitating a last-minute trip across the country for the funeral.
Half of my writing group being unavailable (all for good reasons, but this is about me).
Getting a rejection from one contest exactly as I’m trying to get my stuff together to enter another one.
But then there’s the acorns.
Tiny, invisible acorns, that the universe pelts you with. The real-world analogy would be when I was working on Jericho and our production office was covered with this carpet that created static electricity really well. And we, of course, all wore rubber-soled sneakers, because that’s what you wear when you work in a production office. When the Santa Ana winds would come through and the air would get really dry, literally every piece of metal you’d touch would give you a static shock. Pens, doorknobs, file cabinets, staplers, shock, shock, shock, shock. It had a very depressing effect, to be constantly low-level hurt like that. We all get static shocks sometimes and shake them off, but when it’s every few seconds, it’s harder to shake. It gave me a new appreciation for people with Tourettes or chronic pain disorders. It’s really hard to be happy.
Tiny invisible acorns are the micro-annoyances the universe throws at you. You’re likely to get at least one a day and shake it off, and you might not even notice that you’re getting considerably more than one a day until you snap. None of them are really big enough to qualify as “bad-day makers,” which makes it really hard to explain why you just snapped.
And then there are squirrels. Most of the acorns come from the trees, but sometimes you’ll have squirrels throwing them at you. When there’s too many acorns, when the squirrels in your life are the people you physically spend the most time with, it might be time for a change. Which doesn’t necessarily mean change is available, but that’s why you have to keep stepping on rakes, to stop the acorns.
The cat wakes you up early.
When you get up, you realize the cat was hungry because she barfed all over the bath mat.
The news insists on showing the complete speech of someone who makes your skin crawl because he signed an executive order rolling your rights back AGAIN.
Your carpool buddy is late.
You keep telling other drivers “that’s not how stop signs work” but they’re not getting the message.
Your boss calls from the car with a big project she wants done before she arrives at the office.
You can’t leave the office on your lunch break.
The person you need to talk to has no interest in talking to you.
A visitor to your office comments on the amount of work on your desk.
There’s a lot of traffic on the way home for no discernible reason.
etc. (there’s a lot of etc. You do you.)
And, of course, there’s the general universal badness. The political climate, the talk of a WGA strike, the feeling like everything is wrong, the fact no one has put me in charge of the world yet. So far the only thing I’ve found that helps with that is reading Neil Gaiman short stories. When you’re absolutely certain that there’s something evil just beyond your peripheral vision but you can’t name it or stop it, Neil Gaiman has your back.