Curse of the Dabbler

I’ve met a lot of writers.

I only know that they are writers because they tell me they are writers and they only tell me that they are writers because they have just learned that I’m a writer. And I’ve written most of these people off as dabblers.

Let’s face it, in the internet age there are millions of dabblers, and that’s not restricted to people who claim to be writers. We live in a time when you can learn how to do almost anything by watching a video on YouTube. You can learn about almost anything by visiting web sites; anything you can imagine has at least a dozen sites dedicated to it.

And that’s great, really. But it creates a lot of “jack of all trades, master of none” types.

The other day I was listening to Sonic Youth as I drove to work. It made me think about the fact that Kim Gordon wrote a book that I’d yet to read and how I’d read a few non-fiction books recently about bands and that I really enjoyed them. And it made me think about my own experiences with music and with a “scene” and how writing about that would be fairly easy for me and probably a lot of fun.

But I was never thoroughly invested in music the way you have to be to end up writing a book about it. I’m sure I’ve got a few funny anecdotes about being in garage bands and being the target demographic for grunge, but I don’t have the depth of knowledge or experience needed to write an insightful book about any period of any genre of music.

I dabble in a lot of things. I spend far too much time reading and thinking about comics. I’ve even written some scripts. Yet I’ve never published a comic.

I work in SEO and I know more than the average duck, but I don’t dive into it the way most successful SEOs do. I know enough to stay current, but I’m not online networking or participating in conversations about the field. I like it well enough, but that’s all.

And, as much as it pains me to admit, I’m ultimately a dabbler when it comes to writing. I’m an extremely invested dabbler, but a dabbler nonetheless. Or maybe amateur is a better word. Because for as much as I have written in my many years putting finger to keyboard, I’ve never committed the way that’s necessary to actually be successful (the sheer number of times I use the word “actually” is probably a good indication).

I’ve never had a set writing schedule. I’ve only managed to actually track my work for a few months at a time. I seldom set writing goals and when I do I don’t ever meet them. Heck, one of my new year’s resolutions for 2017 was to submit short stories every month. Guess how many times that’s happened so far? None.

There’s no question that I need to write. If I go too long without writing, I get crabby. Nicole can tell when it’s been too long. It’s an outlet that I have to have. But as far as an actual interesting that I pursue, I’m a glorified dabbler.

Really and truly there is only one thing in my life that I am not a dabbler in: being a father.

I don’t think I ever realized that I’d never fully committed to anything until our son was born. Don’t get me wrong, I’m committed to Nicole, but it’s different, as that’s a reciprocal relationship. My commitment to her is returned by her commitment to me. It’s not like music or writing are sticking with me through thick and thin. They don’t care.

That’s not to say that Sam doesn’t reciprocate, but he doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t realize that I’m giving him anything different than I would give to any other aspect of my life. He’s not putting the time and effort into me, not really. It’s a conscious one way street, but a subconscious two way street.

It’s opened my eyes, though, to what I’m able to accomplish when I commit. It’s too little too late, really, as my time is now dedicated to just a handful of things. So knowing this about myself is bittersweet. I wish I’d been more focused in my younger days, but at least I’m able to focus now, when it maters most.

My 10th grade English teacher told my parents that I was very smart, but lacked focus. That never really changed, not until my son was born. And while I wish I had realized this sooner, I’m grateful that I’m aware of it now and that I’m able to give my all to being a father.