Sunday, July 27, 2008


The odds of the average person becoming even remotely successful at what they consider to be a worthwhile pursuit are slim, if even that. We all have a cynical, frustrated, alter ego that frequently reminds us that there are already plenty of brilliant pianists, dancers, painters, and writers, "and why should anyone give a damn if you can do it too?", it likes to say. Why - when so many other decent people have tried and failed - should the red carpet be rolled out for you? What makes you so worthy of the end results we all desperately wish for? I imagine its a combination of things. It probably consists of a mixture of dedication, relentlessness, severe self criticisms and ultimately some prescription drug abuse. It starts with dysfunctional families, grade school disturbances, and an overeager ability to withstand pain. We all have that deep, underground, barbiturate -like desire that gives us something to think about on cold bus rides homes and an excuse to stare off into space at family dinners while making everyone else remarkably uncomfortable.

Mine is writing. For me it's always been one of those things that I'm not really excited about until I'm actually in the process. I'm like that with movies. I'll stand and sway back and forth in front of a ridiculous amount of DVDs claiming all the while that I have nothing to watch until I finally just pick one - whining that I don't really even want to watch this particular one - and twenty minutes later you'll find me immensely enjoying the film that I, of course, didn't want to watch in the first place. Yet, despite my anxiety over the matter, I always come back to writing. Even when I assure myself that I'll be far better off going into medicine or education I cant ever completely shake the idea of writing. I wish I could say I was one of those children that came up with fantastic stories to share at reunions and holidays, impressing family and friends with my brilliant creativity, with everyone nodding their heads in assurance that I would certainly be the writer amongst them all. I wish I could say I was the acclaimed second grader who won the school contests and received gold stars for every little poem she put out. However I really wasn't - I mostly just read and made efforts to be the top of the class when it came to swinging on the monkey bars.

But still, even without these tidbits to reassure me when I'm certain that I'm an absolute failure at it all and should immediately give it up, I find myself thinking that while many writers are destined to do terribly we cant all be - otherwise nothing would ever be written. I still find myself referring back to the legends of how King, Grisham, and Clark got their start. I remember that they didn't go to college to write, that their books aren't the most profound and all encompassing of literature, and that many of them didn't do well the first time around. And I remember the multi-million advances some of them got. Yes, I'm aware of the arrogance of it all, but for some reason or another the starving artist lifestyle has no appeal to me.

I'm quite thrilled that after all the negativity and cynicism that prefaces the decision to become a professional writer there are those of us who are still able to tell everyone else to go to hell - that we will do whatever we damn well please - and then we'll write it all down. When it really comes down to it, even though I know what the odds are of being a successful writer and I'm fully aware of the serious lack of health insurance that is traded in for the obscure (if not dubious) title of writer, I also know that if I don't try I'd never forgive myself. I'd rather write six books - fail miserably at all of them, gain thirty pounds off of cinnamon sugar toast and strawberry cream cheese while seriously contemplating a move to Jamaica than never try to write professionally.

So all in all, frustrating as it may be, and difficult as it remains, writing is really the only thing I want to do.


Buffy said...

You're fabulous for writing this.

Was it Hamlet who said 'Thinking makes it so..'?

Think of it this way...if you're studying to be a doctor you know that it's hella hard work...but you probably don't doubt your potential for 'success' as much as you do as a writer. It's some kind of mental block some of us have when it comes to the arts.

But really, I'm convinced that if we put in the effort, no matter what our field of endeavour, we'll be just as successful as the next person.

It's all about persistence.

I'm determined to believe this. :)

I'm Just Me said...

I remember when I decided I wanted to be a writer... I was so small that my feet dangled from the dining room chair. Some point after this I must have mentioned to someone who pays bills that when I grow up I want to be a writer because all I remember was the laughter, the sympathic nod, and the comment of "you can't make any money doing that".

That's when writing became a verb for me instead of a dream. I have a carrer now that I love and yes, my bills are paid. I never let go of writing though, it makes me whole, keeps me sane, and it's the pinch I need whenever I think I'm dreaming. Will I ever get a book advance- I don't think so. I use writing for other things now.

My advise for you though as simple as it seems: Don't give up on your dreams. Don't "become" something you don't want to be when you know being a writer is who you are. Good Luck.

pianomanda said...


I randomly hit your blog after flipping through a few...and I must say, your thoughts mirror mine! (Although you put it so much more eloquently!) I, too, love writing with a passion. It is my escape.

I'm majoring in Journalism, currently, but I don't know if a love of something is enough to go somewhere with it.

Anyways, keep up the blog. I'm loving it!