Writing is tough. Life is tougher. When we choose a path outside of the norm there are pitfalls. When we choose a life of safety and conformity there are also pitfalls.
As a writer, artist or ballplayer we always wonder if we are ever going to make it. When? To what extent? How much will I have to sacrifice and endure? How much will I make? Are there any guarantees?
If we stay within a job that someone else provides then we may have the safety we desire and possibly money, but we may not have fulfillment. It may not be in-line with our higher selves, or how we see our futures. And most likely we have some jack-hole boss pulling our strings and giving us fits.
Safety does not help us find the answers we seek. It only provides safety. That is its design. Yet with safety we most likely won’t be on food stamps, but with a book that hasn’t sold and no job, we might.
Either way we give up something and find something in exchange. It has always bothered me being at jobs that were simply a means to an end. They had no real value to me, though there can be something to learn, if not about the product, then at least about myself.
I have often envisioned looking back from old age seeing a successful writer with many worldly experiences under my belt, satisfied and ready to “move on”.
However of late I have been concerned that the future is only a lie that hooks us with hope- that everything is going to be great, so we don’t drink ourselves to death or put a bullet in our heads.
There have been bad days that I have needed to lay on my bed and not answer the ringing phone, because I didn’t have the strength to talk to anyone. Those days the world and its demands could piss off.
People often say to go for your dreams, but they don’t mention how much suffering and absurdity, struggle and hardship we must endure along the way pushing us to the breaking point, testing our meddle.
On the way, you may be on welfare or borrowing from friends or family and feeling pathetic because it doesn’t just happen when you “go for it.” In fact, the skies don’t open and the doves are not released (though they should be) and balloons do not float into the sky upon the laughter of children.
Believe it or not, the decision to leave a shitty job is the easy part, even though it seems the hardest. And it is…at the time. But the process of learning and crafting, of finding one’s voice, and editing, re-writing and having others read it: then find an agent or publisher or learn about self-publishing or whatever it takes to sell the damn book is the next part of the journey.
Another treat is dealing with criticism and judgment along the way. Not just the judgment of our writing, but the judgment of our lives!!! In ways, by taking this “risky” move we are asking people, friends and family, pleading with them even, to judge us, because we are outside the norm. People often like underdogs but not necessarily what goes against the grain of their chosen paths, or outside of their comfort zones.
I left my corporate job in 2009 at the height of the economic crash and a friend mocked me in front of his wife, saying, “It’s the worst economy in 80 years and Doug is leaving his job!” My buddy and his wife had a good laugh over my “in”stability.
So “going for it” often sucks, but it also provides the satisfaction of achievement. It does have some sort of freedom and choice and this “ship is either making it to the mainland or will wreck upon the rocks,” mentality. In some ways we are the captains of destiny. That and luck of course.
The confusion of not knowing how long or how hard is never fun. It will never be fun. Being uncertain if you will go bankrupt or make rent or can go out to eat isn’t fun, but having a well-crafted chapter from your novel is something you can take wherever you go, even if you find yourself “involuntarily” camping “for a while”. Hanging out with friends can also suck when they have money, and you umm, don’t.
The starving writer is bullshit. It is a romantic notion. It’s hard to write or do much of anything when searching for food and shelter. Starving is never good. That is not why we started this journey.
But what a triumphant moment when your book does come out!!! It is something that can not be taken away. It is yours forever. It is something that ultimately came from nowhere but the thoughts in your head. Agented, published or self-published, won’t change that fact.
Another friend was recently bitching at me that I haven’t written enough about struggle. Imagine that? He had stopped writing and moving forward. After not getting published within a few months of finishing his novel, he was finished too. The journey is long and it has never been a straight line. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Not in writing, because there are no straight lines. The destination we seek is short and really only a small, but BIG, part of the journey.
My friend stopped writing so he could play it safe to be a doorman with benefits. Fine. It’s all choice. We are always the captains. How much can you or I take? We will be put to the test.
On many levels he was right. We do struggle…a lot. Yet we want to show our shiny side to the world, that we are in a great place, and that all is rosy. We want to show them a persona, a creation, so that they won’t know how we have struggled or that we are still.
We get caught up in the lofty goals but the truth is we get our asses and stomachs kicked along the way and our bank accounts drained. Yet quitting the journey on rough seas is no man’s land. There are pirates out there and sharks. It’s like a person without a country floating on a life raft away from choice and decision like a leaf on the sea.
Once the door opens and that light of focus goes on, there is no home but forward into the unknown.
I am not quite on the shore of success and stability, yet, but I would like to tell you that I am. I would love to have “made it”. Well, then what? We keep going on the journey. Perhaps there is some safety in that.