"You should write more about your life," said my editor, Andrea Chalupa. "If you feel this way, other people do, too."
Of course, the way I feel is that the Blabbersphere doesn't need yet any more autobiography. Between MyFace and Youbook, our culture has descended into an echo chamber of narcissism. So I've tried to write about topics that inform and uplift. Looking back on them, however, they read like a memoir.
You see, had my publishing career not been sideswiped by the recession, I wouldn't have thought to write a business plan. I wouldn't have looked for new ways to diversify by increasing productivity or becoming a digital nomad by moving part-time to Manhattan. These are self-help pieces I wrote to help myself.
So now my life is about shopping -- not just for the new apartment, but for a whole new life. I'm shopping a screenplay adaptation of my first novel. I'm shopping a new play. I'm looking for another regular Web gig like this one. Teaching work, freelance editing, bring it all on.
As exciting as this new adventure is, it's also humbling. Because I wouldn't be doing it if I'd managed to create a sustainable success from Portland. Having watched my income go down two years in a row, I resist the urge to tie my self-worth to my net worth. I have to remind myself that Charles Bukowski didn't publish his first novel until he was 49, Raymond Chandler 51 and Laura Ingalls Wilder at 64. Based on their timelines, I'm actually ahead.
Still, I'm embarrassed to have to start over at 44. I don't feel like a failure per se, but the fact that I failed to keep up professionally haunts me. And motivates me. Hence the shopping frenzy.
Juggling so many projects can also be overwhelming. In the Too Much Information Age, it's not enough to write a book, a play and a screenplay -- you gotta blog, podcast and tweet. I don't know how other people do it all -- I'm convinced Andy Borowitz is twins. I can barely handle the output, let alone the input. Which is why, even though I tweet, I don't follow anyone. According to Chalupa, I'm the first person she's met who follows zero people and speaks to no one. "You're really cool on Twitter and you don't even know it," she said.
Most of the time not only do I feel like I'm juggling, I feel like I'm juggling chain saws, so I decided to switch my metaphor. Instead I see my projects as staffs of music, each playing their own part in a larger symphony. And I'm both composer and conductor, keeping it all together.
If I feel that way, maybe you do, too.
And that, my friends, is The Upside.
Confessions of a (career) shopaholic