September 3, 2013 Writing  No comments

 A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.   
Roald Dahl

I am at a huge transition point in my life. And I’m kind of (a lot) freaking out about it. I’m sure I’m not the first college graduate to experience this weird post-school limbo of finding your place in the world, but I’m finding myself in a particularly new and uncomfortable place. You see, for the next year, I am committing myself to being a full-time writer. Now, however you quantify full-time, to me that is not having very many other distractions and/or responsibilities. Of course, I have a husband and a house and three pets, so I will never be free of all responsibilities. There will always be animals to feed, laundry to fold, floors to vacuum, groceries to be bought, weeds to pull (Damn weeds! They kill me), etc. But besides for one undergraduate creative writing class at a local university, I have no other job or schooling to distract me.

Now let me tell you how that is going so far: not very well. The whole summer I found ways to distract myself from actually getting a lot of writing done. First, (although this one is not my fault) my brother and mom were staying with me for a few weeks. My office is also my guest room, so those three weeks they were in town, pshh I got no writing done whatsoever. Then, (and I take partial blame for this one) my good friends just bought a house and I offered my services. For a good two or three weeks I was over there several days a week painting, laying down flooring, going to the hardware store, etc. Again, not a whole lot of writing got done during this period.

And then (to those who have seen the movie Dude Where’s My Car? will find that phrase particularly funny), it was July. I did get some writing done during this time but I couldn’t seem to find my flow. I felt blocked and frustrated when it came to writing. It was summer after all, and my first real summer off in four years of college, so hey, who can blame me for not being very productive? So what I just wanted to stay up late, sleep in, and sit on the couch all day? Then in the middle of July, Andrew and I went on a week-long vacation to the beach in North Carolina.

And THEN, I decided, “Hey, I should get a job” so I applied to Barnes and Noble, got the job and started working. Now let me preface this next part by saying, I was really excited to have this job. I thought it was going to be perfect. I would be surrounded by books all day, get a nice discount, see what was new, what was selling, kind of get a feel for the book-world, etc. All that sounds really nice in theory, but it was still a retail job. I still had to be a “bookseller” and I’m not much of a salesperson. Long story short, I am not someone who should be working in retail. I find it very exhausting to have to talk to people all day long and talk in sales lingo. I was working four days a week, and all the other days I was so tired I couldn’t get off the couch. I ended up putting in my two-weeks and left. (Although, I will miss the people. Great people work at Barnes and Noble.) Yet another month and a half of not getting any writing done.

As far as putting obstacles in my path, I was very good at it. The truth is, I’m petrified of what happens next. I don’t like the uncertainty of not knowing (Will I get published? If I do will I sell? Will people like my work? Will I ever make any money from my writing? What happens if I fail? What if I don’t get to do this one day? Or What happens if my first book is actually successful, will my second book be up to par?), but who does? Any career field can be uncertain, but the creative one is especially uncertain. Everyone has heard the tales of Hollywood actors that tended bar for ten or twenty years before landing the role that made them famous. What if you never land that role?

Another thing that makes me uncomfortable is the lack of a set schedule. Now most people would think this would be a dream, getting to do whatever you want whenever you want it. For me, it just gives me anxiety. I like to have a daily, consistent routine. I am most effective and efficient that way. I’m working on getting a good schedule down that is conducive to my personality. And getting used to not being in school full-time is definitely going to take some time getting used to. I am good at school. I like school. Not having that structure, the syllabi, the schedules, the demands are going to be hard for me to adjust to. When you’re in school, people understand that. They accept that. You don’t have anything to prove to the world yet. When you graduate, suddenly you do.

People want answers, preferably ones they can understand. “Oh you’re going to be an accountant. How logical, everyone will always have need of accountants” or “You’re going to be a nurse! Excellent!” People do not understand, “I’m going to be a writer.” They’re all like, “A what now?” Even if they are readers themselves. Hello people! Someone has to sit down and write those books, they don’t just “Poof” appear out of thin air. I cannot tell you how frustrating that is. I really need to work on my confidence when I tell people that. On a side note, fear clutches my heart when I think, “Is school the only thing I’m good at?” If writing doesn’t work out for me, will I ever find something else I want to do or that I’m good at?

Now, it’s post-Labor day. I know it’s not officially Fall until the the 22nd of September, but in my head it is Fall now. Summer is officially over and it is time to stop bull-shitting and commit 110 percent to being a writer. No more excuses. It’s my second day, and as far as writing goes, so far so good. I’ve realized the best time for me to write is in the mornings, so I get out of bed early, make some coffee, and write all morning. The afternoons I use to run errands, work on posts for this blog, do homework for my class, read books about writing and publishing, etc. I have faith that this schedule will work. But I will not lie to you, as much as I know this is what I want to do (and if I haven’t mentioned it before, I really do love writing and creating fiction. When I think about my book and my characters, my heart bursts with love and pride), there is still a lot of anxiety I deal with on a daily basis. But more on that another time.

For now, I will leave you with this: as a writer or an artist, sometimes you have to accept the fact that your work day will not look like a “normal” work day (whatever that is, 9-5 I guess?). For me, I get the majority of my writing done in two or three hours, after that I’m pretty much done with working on my manuscript. Other times, it will be a lot more than that. However you work, it is okay. Also, it’s important to give yourself the space to be an artist. The creative process is different for everyone but it takes a lot of mental and emotional space and freedom. The more open and free my schedule (and mind is) the better my writing is, the more I am inspired, and the better I feel.

Farewell & may your life never cease to be filled with wonder and curiosity


photo cred: Kesler Tran

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