The doldrums is an old nautical term for an area of the ocean where the breezes don’t blow as steadily or regularly, and storms can spring up unexpectedly. When you get there, you get stuck. It’s unpredictable, and thus sailors would prefer to avoid such areas.
Doldrums has also come to mean a periodic downturn in one’s life. I’m experiencing the doldrums right now in a big, big way.
First, I lost out at a job change at work. I was very excited about the opportunity and I felt it was an amazing fit for my skills. I’d have a chance to move away from the technical side of computer repairs and focus more on customer service, and that had its appeal. It’s hard having to keep up, having to keep learning new things all the time. After twenty years, I’ve grown very tired of it to be honest.
The interviews went perfectly, or so I thought. And then the long, long wait to hear anything. Only to be called in for a meeting last week and told I wasn’t chosen, that while I was a strong candidate there were concerns I wasn’t “peppy” enough. Apparently I chose to answer the standard “what are your weaknesses?” questions with a pithy and detailed comment about how the department I supports functions remotely a lot of the time, which had taken me away from having a chance to get to know more of the lab, and that I would be sure to address this minor issue by spending more time roaming the lab, scheduling meetings with folks, trying to get into group presentations, etc. For that honesty, I was labeled “unpeppy” and denied a change in venue I so desperately craved.
To be clear: I’m not only very disappointed about this, I’m quite angry, too. It was a bullshit decision based on nothing but my being honest, and ignoring the plan I detailed to overcome what I felt was a slight deficiency in the past four years of work, deficiencies created by the work habits of those I support more than my own. But there’s nothing I can do except continue on with what I’m doing. It has, however, severely colored my enjoyment of where I work.
Secondly, I received two rejections yesterday for two of the short stories I had out. Both so similar in their form-writing dismissals that I had to do a double take to make sure that one venue hadn’t rejected a story twice. I love both these stories, I think they are the best I’ve written, and the two that got me into Viable Paradise this fall. That said, I can’t sell either fucking one of them to save my goddamned life, and that’s frustrating as hell.
So I’m denied on my current career front, and I’m denied on the goal I set myself for the future. Yeah, that’s the doldrums. I’m tired, pissy, and I know my mood is bad, and I’m keeping myself from talking much at work so I can avoid going off on these topics. It won’t serve anyone any good, and I need to keep my job at least a few more years before I can quit and fucking flip burgers if I want.
The writing on the new work has become the middle-of-the-novel slog. I’ve broken away to try and understand the main character better, messed with third person, decided it worked better that way, and I’m now revising the first 40,000 words into third person, and firming it all up again. There’s really a good story there, I simply have to break through to the next part. I want to finish the first draft by the end of the year.
But I have Viable Paradise to look forward to. Four more days until I hit the road for Martha’s Vineyard. I’m nervous about it, excited, worried about meeting new folks, and slightly panicky that I’ll go and not get from it what I need to get over this hump to “published.” I’ll open my mind wide and hope, absorb everything I can, take notes, whatever is needed. Because I want this so very much.
I almost wrote “I need this.” But do I? No, I’ve got a good life. Great kids, a great wife, a great job. I’m paying all my bills, and have money for extras. I’m relatively healthy. No, I don’t need to be a writer. But I want it so badly I can taste it, dream of it, long for it in unhealthy ways. Life could be much worse, I know that. I’ve lived it. This, too, shall pass, and I’ll find good winds and clear water ahead, regardless of where I end up.
But boy, do I fucking hate these doldrums…