Spencer Richard

Self-Improvement?

self_improvement

Photo credit: Rachel Yan

Lately I’ve been reading a lot of books focused on self-improvement. It’s put me in this odd state of being where I go about life as I normally do but find myself caught in deep contemplation without warning and often for long periods of time. I’ve been thinking about ways to improve myself.

My wife and I have been having a lot of discussions about habits and discussing strategies to help us be the best people we can be. We want to be great spouses, parents, family members, and contributing members of society. We want to encourage each other to be the best possible version of ourselves, yet also accepting of one another’s fundamental dispositions.

For instance, she rather enjoys having a schedule. It’s something that I do not share. I understand the necessity of schedules—how else would I make it to work on time?—but they are not something I thrive in. I do well having the freedom to choose what I want to work on, or what not to work on, provided I have the time to do anything. Despite a consistent desire for copious amounts of freetime to work on my craft, however, I must also admit that having a schedule full of obligations actually works pretty well for me, if only because it gives what little freetime I have a sense of preciousness. I do not squander what is precious to me. Not without serious, compelling, guilt at least.

Now my wife and baby have gone camping with my in-laws for the weekend, and I am alone for the next three days. I have not booked a single thing in my schedule. For the next little while I’m just going to try playing to my strengths, putting some of this self-help knowledge to use, and hopefully making some more good progress on my novel.

It’s funny though. Throughout my recent escapade of self-knowledge, I’ve questioned so many things that I reflexively do in my life that it has weakened some habits, and strengthened others. Writing and making time for my family has been strengthened, while YouTube, videogames, time with friends, and watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, have all been weakened.

One thing I keep trying to understand is the role this website plays in my life. Originally I set out to create the site so I could build an author platform and write these article thingies, but gradually it has changed. Eventually I decided to add short stories and music to the site, making it my home base for all creative endeavours—that is, all creative endeavours besides poetry. For the longest time I loathed my poetry. Now I write some poetry but prefer to perform it rather than have it read.

But I digress…

The bottom line is that I keep wondering what this website means to me, and ultimately, what it might mean to you. It’s interesting how it continues to evolve, though I acknowledge it may be frustrating for my long-time readers. Except for How the Bark is Worse, the last five things I’ve written for the website have all been about “writing” and “life” and what I do in my personal time. Woe is the artist. I’ve drifted from a theme of actual topics in favour of a more meandering, dare I say, more literary, progression of thought. I’m not sure how I feel about that. This is either another step toward maturity for me or a full step backward. I don’t really believe that people can march in place.

A question that plagues me as of late is this: Should I be writing fiction for the website at all?

Perhaps what I ought to do is stick with articles like this one, continuing to develop and grow with my subject matter, and keep the short fiction I write for maybe a published collection of stories instead. It wouldn’t take too long for me to get enough material together, I’d imagine. Then again, maybe I could focus on sending the stories to magazines rather then letting them sit here on my website. There is no recipe for artistic fulfillment, I suppose—only ingredients.

The truth is that I get more traffic for my articles… But so do most authors! Short fiction does not have a large audience, especially online. People tend to get into authors by reading their novels first, then doubling back to check out their short fiction.

Where do I draw the line between doing what I want to do and making a sustainable business plan for my future as a writer?

And so here I am, writing another damn article that does nothing but let you in to my ditherings of identity, the craft of writing, and my ongoing struggle with the spirit of discontent. Part of me knows that this lack of novelty in my articles will only keep my readers interested for so long, but yet another part of me knows that I must go through this to develop as an author. Occasionally I need to reevaluate where I am in life and how nearer I am in having the kind of existence I want. Maybe now is just one of those times.

This is something we all must do, I believe. This evaluating and constant reevaluating, this is a human, no? This is just terribly, miserably, and beautifully human.

Maybe it’s better to be a complete human instead of an incomplete author.

What do you think?

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Spencer Richard

was once a small town columnist for THE HINTON PARKLANDER (2008-2009). Before then he performed to an unsuspecting audience of over 8,000 people during the ALBERTA WINTER GAMES in 2006. Later he had one of his own songs, ON THE WAY, produced by Black Road Records (2013) and showcased it in with an original music video. He is currently working on a couple of novels and a rap album. During the day he manages a book store in Edmonton, Alberta.

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