It wouldn't take much of a Google search to discover that I am far from perfect. I have a lot of flaws—big, proud, prominent issues that completely ruin my chances of running for Congress. Though my odds of running for President seem to be going up lately.
The thing is, sometimes I go through these little bouts of pseudo-depression, wherein I typically have some kind of panicky, existential crisis about practically nothing. Most of these center around my career as a writer. And they almost always come on a "closed" day.
I'm stealing that term from an article I read years ago, about a guy who one day, out of the blue, just started painting. He'd been an accountant or some other respectable, professional job, and then one day he ditched everything and took up the canvas. Years later he was a renowned painter, known for his colorful images that primarily used shades of purple. He had left his wife and his kids, who were grown but still very concerned, and taken up with a string of lovers as he expressed himself on the canvas.
On some days, though, he wouldn't paint at all. He'd complain that he was feeling "closed," and that all the color of the world was faded and gone. He couldn't see it anymore. The it that was his work.
Turns out, this guy was actually suffering a series of strokes, and all had gone unrecognized for years. So his work? The beautiful paintings? And his dramatic changes in behavior? Those all came from a cataclysmic cascade of brain damage.
And those closed days? Also strokes. His creativity and his viewpoint were shifted by tiny little micro aneurisms that would cut off blood and oxygen to his brain in key areas. Eventually his brain would rewire around these, and he'd be creative again. But never an accountant, for some reason.
It was those "closed days" that really stuck with me, though.
I've never had a stroke. But I've definitely had those closed days. I've had days when I woke up feeling completely uninspired and out of touch with my work. Days when I could have written without any interruption, could have created without any worries about time, but I couldn't muster the energy or the desire to do it.
These days are about more than the muse. I'm a professional—the muse comes when I call her, not the other way around.
No, these days are closed days. These are rainouts. These are the kind of days you have when, despite every good intention, you just can't make it happen. Flat tire days. Blizzard days. Closed days.
And on those closed days, I'm typically a big jerk.
I get grumpy when I can't create. Or I get depressed—which is happening more frequently these days than it used to. I think it's some sort of existential crisis. Turning 43 in a couple of weeks—maybe I'm seeing fewer days ahead than behind. Fun, huh?
On closed days, I'm not me. I'm "that other jerk." Angry Uncle Kevin, or Sad and Mopey Kev. Something. Not me, though.
Today was one of those days. I woke up feeling fine enough, but as I started moving into my routine, my routine started depressing me. As I sat to write, the writing made me feel dread, made me feel like I'm wasting my life somehow.
So instead of writing something positive and uplifting and entertaining for my readers, I went on some other guy's blog and ripped him a new one for being a moron about the state of self publishing.
I'm not proud of that.
I mean, the guy really did deserve it. But what did I actually accomplish with all of that truly awesome and inspired repartee? I mean, other than amusing myself?
Actually, at first I didn't feel amused at all. In fact, it made me feel more depressed than ever. Because now, instead of putting my energy into something productive, I was using my powers for something pointless. Do you think that, after reading my brilliance in the comments of his blog, that guy is actually going to change one single thing about his idiotic viewpoint?
I'll answer that for you: No. Not even a little. We'll just continue this dance, if I don't walk off the dance floor.
So that didn't really make me feel better. In fact, for a while there I was feeling worse.
I sat staring at my laptop after that, and decided that the smartest thing I could do, right at that moment, was rework the summary on my LInkedIn Profile.
That's the social media equivalent of drunk dialing your ex. Never edit your profile when you're in a funk. It's like sending a publisher your collection of maudlin emo poetry.
Luckily, though, in the middle of my depressing edit session, my phone range.
Caller ID told me it was Nick Thacker—my writing partner, my co-host, my friend. Nick and I have only met in person one time in our lives, and we still like each other. That is a brotherly bond.
Nick's a busy guy these days. New house. New baby. Same old humongous load of day job responsibilities. And the two of us have our own load of projects we're neglecting together. Guilt central.
But for some reason, Nick felt like he needed to reach out and catch up with me.
And man, am I glad he did.
I don't know if you believe in God—I absolutely do. If you don't, I really want to impress upon you how much I think you're missing out on. But regardless, I believe—and in that moment I feel like my faith brought me an answer.
Nick didn't have to call. In fact, I can't say that we ever talk on the phone much, just out of the blue. We don't typically just call each other for the heck of it. But today, I took a walk around the block, and I prayed about this "closed day," and the depression, and the feeling that I just didn't know what to do with my life. And then Nick calls.
And something he said: "Books are forever."
And I knew exactly what he meant.
Failing all else, I've created something, and it isn't going away. Sure, there are all sorts of ways that it could go away. Technology could be wiped out, and anything that isn't in print could disappear in an instant. I'd probably have bigger problems, at that point.
But I still wrote those books. And I still have this amazing group of readers. And I still have an amazing wife who supports me and loves me. And I still have amazing friends who also support me, and who get where I'm coming from.
Closed days suck. They're not much fun, but they're also really counter productive. I could live without ever having another. But the funny thing about life is that it's often the contrasts that make us feel good about everything. We love that first bit of light that comes in the morning because we know what darkness is like. We appreciate even meager meals when we've worked hard all day without any food in our bellies. We appreciate a hug from someone who annoys us a lot of the time, because we just spent a few days isolated and lonely. Contrast makes the story sweeter.
I'm not feeling quite as closed right now. Maybe I should go back and delete my comments on that guy's posts.
Naaaah. He deserves it. He's probably reading it, rolling his eyes, and maybe even writing a response in which I'm cast as the moron with a mouth. And that might have bugged me earlier. But not now. Now I'm painting in purple shades again. I'm wide open.