Existential Questions

Sometimes I wonder if I should have done something different with my education and my diligence over the last ten years–something besides write.  That’s not frustration or discouragement talking.  It’s more curious self-examination.  I made some pretty extreme choices, what with the never working full time at a day job and writing instead.  That’s not what I would call a common path.  I think it’s reasonable to question whether or not I did the right thing.

And lots of people like to tell you what it takes to be a writer, or what a writer should be, and I don’t often match up to a lot of those standards.  For example, I have heard many people say that if you’re going to be a writer, you should like to write.  Sounds basic enough.  But to tell you the truth, most of the time I dread writing.  Most of the time it scares me too much to be enjoyable.  Most of the time I’m fighting with the words to get the story to come out right.  Most of the time I’m working too hard to be enjoying myself.  And that’s the truth.

Other people say they feel this drive to write that means they could never quit even if they wanted to.  This isn’t me either.  I could totally quit, and if I can’t make a living at it, I will.  Still.  And I will find other things to do with my life that will be just as fulfilling as writing ever was–and maybe more.  And that’s the truth. 

But I thought today about this post on artistic bravery by Sara Zarr.  I thought specifically about her question: "what would I do with the next year if I didn’t have to think about money?"

What would I do indeed? 

I know what I would do.  I would write the book I’m writing now, and then I’d write the next one.  I’d revise them until they were better, painful as that process often is.   I’d send them both to my agent.  I’d try to get them published.   I’d do it just as fast and rigorously as I am doing it now.   I would do it even though it’s not often fun, even though I have to work too hard to enjoy myself, even though I know I could do something else and be just as happy.  I would do it because I like working hard.  I would do it because I like meeting my own deadlines.  I would do it because the satisfaction of completing the difficult task is more important to me than the moment-to-moment enjoyment.  And that’s the truth.

I think that means I’m in the right career.

7 Responses to “Existential Questions”

  1. pixiechick_sw Says:

    I like this! :)

  2. sandratayler Says:

    I can not tell you how much I needed to read this today. I need to re-read and think some more.

  3. Janci Says:

    I’m glad. If you want to chat, let me know.

  4. sandratayler Says:

    I’ve wanted to chat for days, but it seems like I’m constantly in the middle of chaos that I can’t avoid or in the middle of silence that I’m loath to interrupt.

    Want to plan a lunch? If I schedule it in advance then I’ll do it.

  5. Janci Says:

    Sure! I could do Wednesday or Thursday this week, or any day M-TH next week.

  6. leachonlj Says:

    I like that question. And I think I’d have the same answer to it (meaning I’d keep doing what I’m doing now).

    I’ve been measuring my own success by the fact that most days I look forward to going into work. I figure if I can keep that up, I’m in the right career.

  7. zellion Says:

    Whereas I have been feeling like a failure this past month because J.T. and I both hate our jobs and don’t have time to do what we’d really like and have too much debt to do anything else. The weight of feeling like i screwed up any chance at professional happiness for the next 5 or so years is pushing me toward depression.

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