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#RoW80 – June 15th Check In (The Suck Index)

I couldn’t very well follow a late RoW80 check in with an on-time one, could I?

I’m in one of those phases where I don’t like words. I don’t like reading them, much less writing them.

Last week, Liz at Liz Writes Books had a post on what she calls New Writer Smugness. To badly paraphrase, some writers (especially new, enthusiastic writers) can’t believe that a real writer would ever dislike writing. To place the attitude into the analogy of romantic relationships, they’re crushing on/in lust with writing. Like a brand new boyfriend, the words can do no wrong. Of course, that phase can’t last forever. Marriage isn’t a continual bowl of cherries, it’s work. The best marriage advice I ever received was: Remember that you love each other because occasionally your spouse is going to drive you up one wall and down another. Writing isn’t continually being smiled upon by a muse*, it’s work. Occasionally, it’s work that I can’t stand.

This got me to thinking about fun, passion, and a suck index.

Everything has a suck index**. It’s different for everyone and may vary over time.

Eric and I started playing a text-based MMO in 1999-ish. It was a lot of fun adventuring together and hanging out online with other players. Unfortunately by 2001, a certain amount of drama occurred that made the experience decidedly not fun. Despite the hours "invested" in the game, I quit. The MMO was simple recreation. It wasn’t something I had enough passion about to push me through a sucky time. The suck index was higher than my passion.

On the other hand, I’ve been playing ultimate frisbee for ten years now. I’ve claimed in the past that if I had been on my second league team first, I might not have continued playing. I renege. I think by that time I had been bitten hard enough by the ultimate bug to carry me through. My passion for ultimate has been enough to weather hot summer nights of conditioning, numerous shouting matches with Eric, and the occasional off-field drama. Ultimate is fun and my passion for it trumps its suck index. There is always the possibility that something could happen to push the suck index over my passion level. If that were the case, I’d probably take time off and hope the level of suck declines. If it didn’t, I’d quit.

I could probably do this for everything.

Learning to drive? Not fun. No passion for it. The suck index of using public transportation and bumming rides has never been greater than the suck index I associate with driving.

Fried foods? In the last five years, the suck index (resulting stomach upset and overage of calories) has pulled even with the fun of tasty food. Smash Fries and most Mexican food remain exempt. I haven’t wanted fried chicken in months.

Writing? I’ve been writing for ten years? Twelve years? Since 1993? Whatever. My passion has carried me far despite a pretty high suck index. But occasionally, the there’s a little too much suck. I ignore it, but it doesn’t go away. The best thing might be to acknowledge it, post "words are not my friends" as my Facebook status, go do the dishes, and hope the suck decreases. These pauses are hard on social momentum because they mean I don’t want to talk about writing. No blog posts, not much Twitter-ing. No want to engage with other writers. I haven’t found a way around this.

What happens if the suck index never goes below my level of passion? I guess that would mean I’m not a writer anymore. Will that ever happen? When Eric and I started playing that MMO in 1999-ish, we didn’t figure we’d ever stop playing. Never say never.

* I don’t believe in "muses." When writing is easy, it’s a confluences of favorable circumstances. No third party required.
** Everything has a suck index because nothing is perfect.