Every day I tell myself that I could absolutely have a caffeinated drink, I certainly could. I tell myself I could certainly have this one, right here, but, I think I’ll skip it. I can buy a coffee at the next gas station, get a chai at the next coffeeshop, get a can of Monster out of the vending machine at work. I tell myself this on the drive in to work, during my whole shift, and on the drive home. I can always get a mocha tomorrow. And then I wake up the next day and tell myself I can wait until lunch, or through dinner, or I can certainly get one tomorrow morning. I tell myself these things every day, and about once a week I have a chai or a decaf coffee, and then I start telling myself the litany again. In this way I’ve stayed mostly caffeine free — except for the once-a-week decaf or chai — since July 9th 2009.
About once a week I remind myself that I don’t need to have a cigarette right now, I can get a pack on the way home and have one then. And then I don’t, and the desire fades until a few days later, and I tell myself the same thing again. In this way I’ve stayed quit of smoking since November 30th, 2001.
Every single day in the cafeteria at work, I want a burger. Preferably a bacon cheeseburger. It’s mouthwatering to me. And every day I tell myself I can have one on the way home, from McDonalds, or tomorrow at work. In this way I’ve stayed vegetarian since 2000.
When I’ve tried to quit things in the past, I’ve tried to quit. “This is the LAST cigarette I shall EVER have!” I would say, smoking with mourning and solemnity. And then three months later I would have one. Because I was quit now, you see, so this was okay. Eventually I realized that I could never quit things. That, on some level, I didn’t believe it.
I realized that I don’t believe I can achieve long-term goals.
I’m not sure why I don’t believe this. I suspect it may have something to do with my dad, with being raised by the adult child of an abusive alcoholic. I’m pretty certain that my father doesn’t make plans. That the future is something that just happens to him. Good things happen because he is lucky, bad things happen because the world is full of people out to get him. But none of it is his fault, because none of it is under his control — in his eyes, at least.
I don’t feel that way about the world — on the contrary, I feel reasonably certain that I am in control of much of my life. When I don’t like something, I try to change it or make other plans. Yet I still have trouble with long-term goals, long-term thinking. Part of me just shrugs, internally, and says, “but who knows what will happen? You can’t make plans for that!”
I’m really, truly shocked at my own ability to keep producing comics. Seriously shocked. This is, is a plan. It’s this HUGE long-term thing. Yet . . . Yet, aside from initially writing a five-year business plan, I don’t think of Slightly Obsessed Studio as a long-term goal. I think of it as The Next Thing. As in, what’s the next thing I should do? Okay, good, what’s the next thing? What’s the thing after that? If I try to sit down and plan out everything I might need to do to become a paid comic book writer, the goal is too large. Crazy, insane-large. I don’t believe I can do it. But I believe, I know, that I can write scripts. I know I can edit them. I know I can do world-building and research. I know I can cold-contact artists. I know I can network. I know I can fill out my tax forms. I know I can write a cover letter, I know I can send in pitches. I know I can mail out orders, I know I can keep track of income. I can do each of these things, each alone, and slowly produce comic books.
If I tell myself I can NEVER have caffeine again, I get resentful and balky and trapped,and I know I’ll slip up sometime, so why not slip up right now and be happy? If I tell myself I have to get published and paid to write, it’s absolutely essential, I get depressed and angry and resentful and I stop writing because it will never work. I don’t know what this thing is in me that refuses to believe that I can achieve long-term goals. But it’s there, and I know from a lifetime of experience that I can’t bull my way through that thing. I have to trick it. So that’s what I do. I won’t have a cheeseburger for lunch today. I didn’t stop for coffee on the way into work; I might on the way home. I don’t have to produce a whole comic today, I can just email this artist back with page approvals. The constant process of choosing to take an action, over and over again, feels stronger and better to me than having some iron-clad situation from which I “cannot escape.” It’s my choice, right this minute, to not go to the vending machine and get a can of Monster. It’s in my power, it’s under my control.
And I’ll just keep making this choice for . . . for as long as I choose to make it.