I have always been torn on the subject of single-mindedness. Part of me appreciates it- some forms of single-mindedness demonstrate a level of focus and commitment that I haven’t had since I was a kid. There’s a drive and energy in that mindset that I wish I could find again. Those that have it (and use it correctly) tend to do amazing things.
However, there’s a downside to single-mindedness. You can get so focused that you lose track of other important things. There’s a danger in your personality becoming unbalanced. Not keeping a broader look at the world at large means you might not take the time to stop and smell the roses. Pity, that.
This is on my mind thanks to a number of recent events in my life. Things are ridiculously busy for me these days; from late August to mid-October, I was working my regular 40hr-a-week job, teaching two classes as professor, and also taking two classes towards the Masters degree I am pursuing. It would be an understatement to say that was exhausting- I did a shitload of work between those three things, and that was not all I accomplished during that time. I also managed to achieve a lifelong goal along the way.
In early January 2012, RED SONJA: RAVEN will ship from Dynamite Entertainment. This marks my debut as a comicbook writer, and that’s huge for me. I’ve been reading comics since I was four years old. I’ve been a comics journalist for the past decade. I suppose this is one of those “it’s about damned time” moments, and I’m okay with that.
My point, though, is that I wrote the book right alongside everything else I was doing.
What tears at me is the question: why can’t you just settle on one thing and do that? I’m a good teacher- this semester, more than ever, I can see the effect I have had on my students’ lives. I’m having a fantastic run as a student back in the classroom; by the time this semester is complete, I expect I will have four A+s and two As from the six classes I’ll have taken so far for my degree. I’m also a solid writer- dependable and reliable, if not flashy- and can tell a story that will entertain.
My lack of single-mindedness has carried over into most aspects of my life for a long time now. I remember a few years ago explaining to a good friend of mine in the comics business how much I enjoyed golf, and that I subscribed to more golfing magazines than comics-related magazines. He looked at me like I was drunk. But it isn’t just golf; I’m an avid bicyclist, too. I bounce from one thing I enjoy to the next, heedless of the consequences.
Honestly, for a long time, this is one of those things that has really bothered me about myself. I’m 41- shouldn’t I have written a ton of comics by now? Shouldn’t I have gone back to school five years ago and be finished and teaching full-time somewhere at this point? What the fuck is wrong with me?
It is only lately that I have begun to realize that the answer to that question is “nothing.”
Certain things in life, you need to be ready to do them. I wasn’t ready to go back to school until this year. I don’t know that I was strong enough at the keyboard to write a good comic until right now. But more than that, I needed have the skills and patience I possess now in order to finally chase what I consider to be success and have a chance of achieving it.
Perhaps the greatest of those skills is time management. When I started writing SONJA, my house was in the middle of massive repairs by my landlord. Not only did that restrict my time at the computer for working on the script, it also hampered my ability to grade my students’ homework, do my own homework… it would have been easy to just throw my hands up in exasperation. But I didn’t. I changed how I managed my time. I set goals for what I was going to do each day and defined how I would get them done. And on not one day did I ever fall behind or falter.
What this began to show me was that my lack of single-mindedness was an asset, not a hindrance. I began to realize that it is okay to want to do a number of different things and keep my options open for how I approach the world. I can teach. I can write more comics. I can finish this degree. I can do all the things I want because I am not so buried in my head that I cannot see how to do them.
That’s weirdly close to optimism for me, which is kinda scary. I’m just going to chalk it up to going through a midlife renaissance. After years of allowing my potential to lie fallow, I have begun tapping into pieces of myself I didn’t know still existed and developing as a person again. For the first time in a long time, I am able to ask myself “why can’t you do that?” and not come up with an answer. Because right now, I can. And there’s no feeling quite like having that particular knowledge at your fingertips.