Writers: Forgive Yourselves

I recently read an article on WritersDigest.com (http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/10-poignant-practices-for-every-writer?et_mid=752210&rid=239646518), titled 10 Poignant Practices for Every Writer. I was thoroughly enjoying the article…until I got to #9, which hit me hard.

Number nine is “Forgive yourself”. It goes on to say that writers should forgive themselves for not living “a traditional life where rules are understood and followed.” It mentions that sometimes money flows in and sometimes it doesn’t from your creative endeavors. The final line hit me pretty hard: A creative life is not a clear line from A to B, more like from Z to P to W to D, and that’s OK!

I have been at my job a very long time. I make a decent amount of money, I’ve been promoted a few times, I’m comfortable, and my job allows me to have a life outside of work, should I ever care to try. I write on the side when I can. Yet lately, I have been thinking about ambition and what I should have done by now. I have friends and acquaintances who are scientists, lawyers, pharmacists, and doctors. Some of my coworkers are way overeducated for their positions. I look at all these people and think that I should have done this, I should have continued with school, I should have gone after more and more promotions at work, etc. I’m not stupid, I’m totally capable of doing the jobs, but I am just bored by the thought. (Tangential: We had an education fair at work today and I was inquiring about a psychology program. Unfortunately, I blurted that my fondest ambition was to become Hannibal Lecter. Having mental Tourette’s and a strange sense of humor gets you odd looks sometimes.)

My job allows me flexibility (in fact, I am writing this on the job, having finished all my work early). I am paid well. I can pay my bills. I have good insurance. Is that all there is? No. Should I be in this job for another 10 years? Probably not. I would get too bored. But I have been working on my writing (not steadily, but that’s another subject), which is something I have always wanted to do and to do more of. My job right now allows me the space to do just that.

So, when I talk to my pharmacist or scientist or lawyer friends I have to remember that my path is different. I’m probably never going to make as much money as they do, but I’m comfortable, and as long as I remain so, who cares? As long as I’m finding fulfillment elsewhere and making enough money to be okay, isn’t that the best thing next to doing what you love as a profession? My friends don’t judge me (I suppose they wouldn’t be my friends if they did), so why should I? I didn’t realize how much guilt I carry around about this — a feeling that I have failed myself and my future.

This feeling is apparently prevalent in writers. We always seem to feel like it isn’t enough. I was reading something by Stephen King some time ago (it might have been in a novel) where a writer always had the feeling that people thought he should get a “real job”. King himself talked about waiting for his wife to tell him to get a real job (instead, she took the ash-laden remains of what would become the novel Carrie out of the trash and made him go on with it). Neil Gaiman’s Twitter bio says (humorously, I’m sure) that he “will eventually grow up and get a real job.” Writers are constantly being told this, whether outright or implicitly, and we internalize that.

I have the oft-mentioned day job and I still think that I’m not doing enough, that I might be wasting my time writing, that it’s never going to be what I want, that I should use that time to go back to school, and so forth. How many of us feel that way? I suspect that writers like Mr. King and Mr. Gaiman are over that. The rest of us are left to make our own peace with it.

But, more than anything, I truly feel the impact of this rule. As a writer, artist, musician, etc. your path may be different. And that’s okay. Forgive yourself and fight on for your dreams.

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~ by Darren Endymion on May 21, 2015.

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