Glad you're asking these questions and plan to step back a little to answer them. Wisdom will come from this. I've been doing the same kind of soul-searching lately. The grind looks a lot different from the dream. And it's given me pause.
I've decided to focus more on the best parts of the dream. That means writing what I love. At least doing it before I write the stuff I have to write.
It also means writing more of the things that come from an inner prompt, whatever that may be. When I do this, I feel attuned with my deepest self. My soul, if you will. Just reaching this decision has made a big difference for me. I haven't quite turned the corner yet, but I'm heading in that direction.
Here's what I've noticed. The stuff that comes from within resonates with people much more than the churned-out stuff. I've also noticed that when you write about what you love, other people wind up loving it too because they see the thing through your eyes, from your point of view.
As an example, I recently read "Where the Crawdads Sing," by Delia Owens. It's fiction, but her descriptions of the natural world really made me feel a greater appreciation for things I often fail to notice. Owens has a PhD in biology, but she does no teaching in this novel. She simply reveals how beautiful the world is by showing it to us through the eyes of an uneducated orphan girl discovering it on her own.
I really like your work here. And I look forward to seeing where you come out on all this.
Neil Gaimon answered these important questions by envisioning his writing goal (dream) as a mountain. To reach the mountain, he only made decisions that brought him closer to the mountain. If the path veered away from that, he didn't take it.
Thanks for writing this and for all your interesting stories.
PS: You probably know this quote from Henry James: "We work in the dark, we do what we can, we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion. Our passion is our task. All the rest is the madness of Art."