On Candles and Commitments

by krstaten

I have a story for you guys. Now before I even start this story, I want you to know that it does have a point, and that point does relate to my normal theme of writing and literature.

So here goes.

When I was in my early teens, my mom discovered that she loved making gel candles.

She did all kinds of cool things with them. She really loved coming up with unique ways to use this squishy, transparent candle wax. She would buy small fishbowls and put little fish tank decorations in them along with a toy fish and a wick. She would take seashells collected from various trips to beaches (or sometimes just bought from the store) and put them over colored sand at the bottom of the wax. She made an Elvis candle once, with a little figurine. And one with a poker theme–a royal flush, made with a cards from a tiny novelty deck an inch tall, put in at just the right point where the wax wasn’t set but was getting firm enough to hold the cards upright. She experimented with colors and shapes and scents, and it was fun.

She loved it. She made a lot of candles in her spare time and then gave them away as gifts, kept them as decorations, and occasionally even sold them.

And then she got an idea: Maybe she could sell them more often. She was creative, and they were fun to make. Why not turn it into a business? She let my brother and I pick her business name and logo, which I can’t even remember anymore, and started setting up stalls at the county fair and other local events and making these things by the dozens to prepare for sale.

And then she stopped making them, abruptly and without explanation. She stopped selling the ones she had left and started finding excuses to get rid of them. It was as if she couldn’t stand to look at them anymore.

See, sometimes I worry that if I ever manage to make my living writing, that’s what will happen to me.

It was only after my mom’s candle hobby dropped off the face of the earth that she explained she’d simply gotten burned out; that once she decided to make candles as a business she lost all interest in it, that the pressure got to her, the schedule got to her, and it just wasn’t fun anymore. At the time, I didn’t understand. How could something enjoyable become un-enjoyable just because you’re making a business out of it? Wouldn’t that make it MORE fun, since you’re doing something you like AND it’s making you money?

But I think I get it now. It’s hard to tell yourself, “Okay, I know you did this thing you like doing all day long yesterday and it was fun, but now you HAVE to do it again today, for profit.” And then to do it again, and again, and again.

I look at some authors I love who write on contracts, X books in Y years, and I think about how hit-and-miss they are for me. The first that comes to mind is Stephen King, who is one of the best and most popular horror writers; as great as he is, even most hardcore Stephen King fanatics will admit that some of his books make them cringe. You force yourself to churn out so many books in so many years, you’re bound to write some stuff that isn’t great. And I’ve always wondered whether authors like them ever just get sick of the act of writing, if they at some point just start caring a little bit less about the quality of their writing because it’s their job and they just want to do it so they can make a living. Does Stephen King ever just write something that he’s not enjoying writing because he knows he has to but he just doesn’t care?

(I’m sure there are some hardcore Stephen King fans who would hate me for implying such a thing. Please know that this is purely speculation, I have nothing but respect for the man, and my aversion to his books has nothing to do with the fact that I don’t generally love his writing and everything to do with the fact that in the past he’s been so good at it that I had nightmares.)

This has all been a very roundabout way to say that I am going to start pushing myself to write on a schedule. And it’s kind of scary. I know that ultimately it will give my readers some regularity (do you guys care about that sort of thing?) and it will give me as a writer far more discipline which, let’s face it, most of us could use. I just don’t want to end up feeling like this blog is in a way my job, and end up hating having to commit to it.

But let’s give it a try.

Generally, I divide my blog up into three categories: Poems, book reviews, and general blog posts about life, writing, and literature. My goal is to start posting a book review on the first Monday of every month, a poem every Wednesday, and a blog every Friday. If anyone has any feedback on that platform, let me know, otherwise, I’m going to plow on ahead with it.

I have a theory that if you really, REALLY love something–not just that you find it fun, but that you have a real passion for it, one that creates a deep need to make it a part of your life–then you won’t get burned out on it no matter how much you’re forced to do it, and even on the days when that something is the last thing you want to do, once you sit down to do it you’ll realize that it is an innate part of you that you can’t resist or cut out. Someday I hope to have the opportunity to test that theory and find it true. Perhaps this is a small start.