Island Hopping With My Inner Critic

I live on a big island in the Andaman Sea called Phuket. Yes, it looks like it’s pronounced fuck-it, but it’s not. It’s pronounced fou-ket. You might expect that living here would be one endless string of beach days, hanging in hammocks and cheap massages, but it’s not. While it’s easier for me to get to the beach than it was when we lived in Arizona, the demands of writing a novel and the financial realities of life eliminated the possibility that living here was going to be an endless vacation.

One of the first things that I realized about becoming a writer was that my fantasy of writing a novel while stretched out in a hammock, sipping on a fresh, cold coconut while overlooking a stunning seascape would never work. I discovered that for me, swaying in the breeze in a hammock with a panoramic view of some idyllic beach made me want to do anything but stare at a computer. I wanted to stare at the ocean, or the butterflies, or try and figure out what the hell those crazy red birds were. Anything but writing. I only tried to write from my hammock one time before I realized (heartbreakingly) that it wouldn’t work.

Koh Yao Noi – Hill House Bungalows

One of the first things that I realized about being a writer is that it’s incredibly hard work, and that it’s going to take more discipline than anything I’ve ever done before. I managed to build several very successful IT companies from nothing back in the US, and that was easier than the process of writing my first novel. I’m not exaggerating at all. Especially living in Thailand, where I’m constantly tempted by the potential distraction of a delicious, cheap meal, perfect beach weather, a blissful $8 massage, or even going out for a run. When the sky is blue and the sun is shining, the last thing I want to be doing is sitting in front of a computer.

I’ve had to really clamp myself down into a rigid schedule that I work very hard to maintain. This is the only way I feel like I’m making any progress, and even then, there are very few days where I feel like my progress has been anything close to satisfactory. My productivity, no matter how impressive, never seems to be enough to satisfy my inner critic. Any time I deviate from my schedule, or there’s a slight drop in the number of hours that I’m spending on the work, my inner critic gets out the fire ax and starts hacking away at the graffiti-covered walls of my subconscious.

Koh Phi Phi – Relax Beach Resort

I had some friends from the USA visiting Thailand last week and I joined them for an island hopping trip around the Andaman Sea. I brought my laptop, and I had big plans of continuing to wake up at 4:30AM every day and carrying on with my regular routine, getting my writing work done before they woke up. Unfortunately, I never even opened the laptop, and ended up just taking a week off and enjoying the company of some dear friends and the natural beauty of the islands. I slept in until 6 or 7 every morning.

I have a tendency to place unreasonable expectations on myself, especially when it comes to my writing. I’ve struggled to make my peace with the pace of my progress, and ¬†most of the time, I feel like I’m failing at the whole thing, and at life in general. Even when my friends who are reading early drafts tell me that I’m doing good work, and that they want to read more, my inner critic tries to convince me that they’re just being nice.

Koh Phi Phi – View Point

The most effective way that I’ve found to successfully apply duct tape to the mouth of my inner critic is to just keep working as hard as I possibly can. When I get results, or when I write something that I’m particularly pleased with, the critic seems to lose his voice, so I’m just going to continue working as hard as I can to produce better work.

In the meantime, here are some pictures of the places we visited last week. I made a decision early on that my web site won’t be a travel blog. There are about 293,384,531 travel blogs maintained by people living in Thailand, and I’ve already got my hands full with writing my novels. Still, I’ve got some nice pictures from this trip, and I thought I’d share them with you. I hope you enjoy them! It was my first time visiting Koh Lanta and Koh Yao Noi, and I’m looking forward to visiting again someday. They’re both wonderful, laid back places full of beautiful beaches and friendly, kind people.

Have you ever been to any of these places? Let me know in the comments below…

Welcome!

I’ve been agonizing over what my first post here would be for about a month now, and I finally decided to just go ahead and make it an introduction to break the ice between you and I, my nonexistent readers. Once I realized that you don’t exist, there was suddenly no more pressure. I could write as if I were writing for myself because this domain name has zero reputation and zero traffic. I mean yeah, sure, someday, someone may read this, but for now, I can write as if it were just the words and I, all by our lonesome, here at muhlenfeld.com.

 

The closest that I’ve ever come to the act of writing a blog (God, I loathe that word) was probably the process of writing G-Files back in the late 1980s. G-Files were text-only files from the days before the internet that covered a range of topics as diverse as the smells of a Turkish spice bazar; everything from how make free phone calls (remember when it wasn’t free?) to making improvised bombs. I was mostly interested in phone phreaking and hacking. Not maliciously, but out of a deep curiosity and a strong desire to understand how technology worked. Computers were the ultimate puzzles, and I loved them from the first time I watched one boot up.

 

Later, still in the days of modems, I was very active on some local multi-line BBS’s, which were computers that had a bunch of modems in them and could facilitate simultaneous user connections. Users could interact in text chats, message forums, text based games, and so on. I suppose that’s a bad example. Posting on a forum on some lowly BBS has almost nothing to do with writing a blog.

 

I was the proprietor of a very short lived zine while I was in high school (please, to all that is good in the universe, don’t let there be any surviving copies out there), but that had a very low circulation and catered to a similarly nonexistent readership. I think I might have published one or two issues. I suppose that’s at least in the same ballpark, eh?

 

My intentions for this website are simple, and will likely evolve. For now, I hope to publish excerpts from my upcoming novels, and I hope to interact with you, whoever you may be. I’ll occasionally post about what it’s like living as an American expat in Thailand, my love of Engrish, and so on.

 

For now, I’m really happy that you stopped by for a visit, and I invite you to leave a comment or drop me a line. I’d be thrilled to hear from you, whoever you are. I’d also be amazed to learn that you exist at all!