Why the Hell Do I Do This?
The writing life is hard. Being a writer is a lonely job. Getting published is almost impossible. Ways to avoid the slush pile. Agents decline hundreds of queries each week. Who do you think you are?
All of these are just tiny snippets of thoughts that run through my head every single time I sit down at my computer. And then, if I look to writing books and blogs as inspiration, I again meet those same arguments and worse. There is nothing I have ever come across in my readings on writing and the writing life that have been totally positive. No one has said, “We are so excited you want to be a writer! It’s a great life and a great journey and everything comes up roses!”
Why is that? Why is this such a negative industry to get your start in?
Because it is, I guess. I mean, I’ve barely brushed the surface. A few blog entries, another blog I can’t seem to figure out how to connect to this one from years ago, unfinished manuscripts, finished but terrible manuscripts, many book ideas and starts, tand two rejections until I decided to quit, only because I went back to find that my book was not ready, not even near ready and so the editing has begun. Editing that does not ever seem like it will be done. Editing that one day is great, where I read a chapter and go, “hey, I like this!” then I go to the next chapter and think, “what the hell was I thinking, I need to go get a real job.” That is the extent of my experience as a writer and I got to say, every bit of it has been hard, has been a struggle and I have yet to see my hard work in the form of dollars and cents.
And that’s it, isn’t it? Until you make it, until you’re published and have some form of cheque in your hand, this isn’t a real job. Not only is it not a real job but it’s not one I can even admit to when people ask what I do. Not only does it not fee like a job, but it takes all your time and energy and brain power only to go back to all those words I wrote in the first paragraph of this post, all those phrases that suggest this is nearly impossible.
So why do I do this to myself?
Because I woke up at seven o’clock this morning and I never made it out the door until 10:25. Not because I was lazy, but because it takes me that long (and no, it’s not a three hour process to put on makeup, you can take one look at me and know I am NOT that high maintenance). No, it just takes me that long. I hate being stressed out in the morning. I love my routine of journal-ling, drinking coffee, meditating, just plain old taking my time. Not only that but I have kids that need to get on the bus and their disaster needs to be cleaned away and the dogs need to be dealt with and the cat needs to be fed and the roomba needs to be set off to counteract the effects of the latter three items. And I know this is stuff that everyone has to do, everyone with real jobs have to do, and they somehow manage to make it to work on time without angering their bosses.
Good for them! I applaud all of you who do, and to tell you the truth, there has been many times (almost all the time, especially when sitting and staring at my computer with that damn cursor blinking at me saying, write something good, write something good) when I wished I was you.
But I would be a boss’s worst nightmare. I just can’t get my shit together enough to make it there on time. When I did have to get into work I was running in at the last minute, harried and stressed and completely out of it and the only reason I didn’t get fired was because I was the boss. Before that, my boss was practically family so he tolerated me.
So is that why I do this? Is that why I put myself through all this? Is that why I’ve rented an office and stuck my ass in it day after day for a passion that may never come to anything but something in which to occupy my time and brain and entire life?
And then I realize that I do it because today was Monday and I am in a fantastic mood. I am so excited because my kids are off at school, the weekend is over and I GET to go in to “work.” I do it because all those words and ideas and characters and narratives that have been bustling through my head all weekend can finally be let out. I do it because I can’t not. I get grumpy on weekends because it’s hard to write, to carve out time from my family to sit in an office alone with my computer. That alone has to be enough of a sign, doesn’t it? I was never meant for a normal job, have hardly ever even had one, and I am only at peace when typing out words. I am such a dork that I love filling out forms because that means putting pen to paper. So I have to believe this isn’t all in vain. I have to ignore all the warnings and threats and doomsday prophecies about this. I have to ignore all those books and people that say this is nothing but an uphill battle with no guarantee of success at the end. I have to ignore the fact that the odds are against me. And most of all, I have to ignore that demon in my head that tells me to give up, that my words will never compare to Wally Lamb’s or John Green’s and my characters will never come close to a Harry Potter or a Great Gatsby. Because if I don’t, I won’t be myself. And isn’t that the point? To come to the end of all this and say, I was who I was and I never let anyone stop me, not slush piles, not rejection letters, not social norms, and most of all, not myself?
And really, that is all I have left to say, my time to procrastinate has come to an end. It is time to stop worrying that the chapter I am about to write will never be good enough because I have to have faith that this burning desire that will not let up is good enough for all of it. I wouldn’t feel like this if I was doomed to spend my life at the bottom of a slush pile, would I?
Don’t answer that!