Part 3 (or why I’m not (yet) a writer)

Ok, Carrie, you’ve told us you know you want to be a writer, and that, in fact, you’ve pretty much always known you wanted to be a writer.  And now you’ve told us why you know you want to be a writer…

…I know what you’re going to say…

So why, then, are you not a writer?

…Why am I not a writer…

Hey, I never said this was easy!  It takes time, and it’s a big decision.  It’s not like there’s a test you can take to tell if you’re good enough.  It’s not like you can just apply to writing jobs in the newspaper and magically get paid to produce work.*  You’ve got to produce the great work first.  And that’s not an easy task.  Not when you’ve got bills to pay.  And a dog who won’t take kindly to missing meals and not getting the occasional treat or chew toy.  To do all that, you’ve got to keep working, a real job, 8 hours a day, and even though there are apparently 16 other hours in the day…

No, I’m sorry.  I’m making excuses for myself.  You don’t deserve that.  I don’t even deserve that.  And that’s a cowardly thing to do.  It’s easy to make excuses, and, there’ll always be ones to make.  There’ll always be reason to say no, not quite now, not just yet.

The truth is, I could quit my job.  I could put in my two weeks.  I could sell my car, scourge up some money, get a waitressing job or something, and have enough money to get by for a while and still probably afford dog treats.  And I could write and write and write.

Finding time to write isn’t (exactly) my problem.  My problem is, I don’t know what to do next.  I need help.  I need direction.  I need advice.  I don’t think this is something you’re supposed to do alone.  I am, however, prepared to figure out how to do it alone, but, if possible, I’d like a little bit of help.

While I don’t subscribe to any religion that believes in mischievous or vengeful deities, I sometimes have to wonder if the universe has got something against me.

You remember how I told you my 9th grade teacher asked me to help petition for a creative writing class?  Well, that resulted in a bit ol’ nothing.  But whatever, that was high school.

And then in college, after I took my first intro to creative writing class and built up the courage to my professor to be my advisor, I can recall as we walked out of our basement classroom, past the row of vending machines and into the sun, he said, “You know what Carrie, I was going to bull shit you, but I like you too much to do that.  I’m trying to leave this school and get a new position elsewhere, so I don’t think it’d be fair of me to advise you knowing that.”   I guess I admired his honesty, and sure enough, after another semester, he left.  My literature professor became my advisor, and that was that.

As you know if you read my earlier posts, I then went off to Spain and watched Buffy for a while, but when I came back, I was ready to tackle grad school.  I (thought) I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I decided going back to school was the place for me.  I had two choices, get my MA in English or my MFA in Creative Writing.  I of course was tempted to chose the later, I deep down, secretly wanted to.  But I hadn’t been actively writing anything polished for the past two years, and, thanks to Joss Whedon’s title credits, I’d recently been swept up by the idea that I might want to write for film and television.  But I didn’t know nearly enough about that, I did have enough time to carefully think things through or consider.  I was also on a bit of a teaching high after returning to the states (I taught ESL in Europe), and I thought that was my true calling.  I didn’t want to write, I told myself, I wanted to teach.  I wanted to be a good, caring person and help people.  So I went and got my MA.

It turns out, I don’t’ really want to teach that much.  Maybe I’m not as nice as I thought.

I did choose a grad school that had an MFA program, and I took as many of their courses as I could.  I even asked the professor of the personal essay course to be my advisor.  And this time, he said yes.  I was in!  I finally had the mentor I’d so long craved, some one who could help me with my writing and introduce me to the publication world.

Well, there you have it Carrie!  So why are you here moping to us about all this? 

First, I’m not moping (I hope).  And second, because my advisor almost immediately had to step down after one of his family members got incredibly sick.  My feminist studies professor became my advisor.  I wrote my thesis, and that was that.

Now with my my masters degree in hand, I immediately began applying for jobs, in a bit of a panic because I didn’t know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go other than the vague sense that I wanted to do something creative and go someplace warmer. 

And I found this job: a writing consultant needed by a large university with a creative writing program looking for someone who had a background in creative writing.

What luck, I thought, it’s the best of both worlds.  I get to do a bit of teaching.  A bit of curriculum development.  And (hopefully) a lot of creative writing.  I’d have benefits, a steady income, and, I could even take classes.  It sounded great, and it was some place warm!  I said yes.

And now here I am.  And while I am the creative writing specialist, I mostly teach and tutor ESL students. I’ve got a good background in that too, so, it’s just as well, and there are far more ESL students than there are creative writing ones.  When the occasional creative writer does come around, though, they come to me.  And I help them polish their poetry and develop their scenes.  I help them write their applications and cover letters to achieve their dreams as I wonder how the hell it never occurred to me to try and achieve mine.

(As a side note, I haven’t been able to take any creative writing classes yet.  The slow moving wheels of bureaucracy and such.)

Life can be so funny when you look back on it.

Oh well.

Live and Learn,

Carrie


*At least, not to my knowledge.  If this is a thing (please, let it be a thing), can someone let me know?

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So, You Want To Be A Writer, Eh? (or, the long road to writing: part 2)

Or you want to be a neurosurgeon?  A movie star?  A super hero?

If you have a dream — be it to write or otherwise — that you’ve kept close to your heart, that you’ve tried to pass off as a hobby or flight of fancy, and have convinced yourself you’re better off doing something else, be it to make more money, please your family, or just because it’s else is easier, I’d like to share with you my story in hopes it helps you figure yours out.

My previous post is about explains that I want to be a writer.  If you’re thinking about chasing your own dream, you might be wondering how I know that…what’s making me finally act.

As I’ve just told you, writing has been an interest of mine for as long as I can remember. But even though it’s been a passion, I never thought it could be a career.  I assumed this was a pipe dream, a long shot, akin to trying to make it rich in the NFL.  Whenever I felt a flash of creativity, I recalled the trope of the starving artist and the story of Harry Potter getting rejected by 12 publishers.  In short, I assumed it was never going to happen.  So I turned my professional efforts elsewhere.

But several things have happened to me over the past year which have seriously made me reexamine this notion. The first of which is that I don’t like my job.  It isn’t that I hate it, it’s fine actually, but it’s that it does nothing for me. And it’s not like something bad will happen.  I’m not going to hurl myself off a cliff, I’m not wrist-slittingly sad.  It’s that nothing is going to happen.  Nothing else.  Nothing new.  Nothing different.  It’s that this could be my life every day for the next ten or twenty years.  And this can’t be it.  It can’t be my life.

And, in fact, it isn’t my life.  My life is so much more than that.  From the outside, you’d hardly tell.  I get up every day, walk my dog, go to work, do my job…All of it, hardly worth noticing.  So much so, that I honestly can’t blame anyone for having not noticed me all these years.  I’m, of course, a little sad no one has, but I understand all the same.  And that’s because, while I was sitting there, quietly and efficiently getting my work done and minding my own business, I was also dreaming up stories, creating characters, drafting scenes,

You see, this is simply what I do.  I go to bed thinking about stories, I wake up thinking about stories.  It’s what I do while I’m driving.  It’s what I do when at lunch.  It’s not only what I do, but it’s who I am.

I am a writer before I am most other things.  In fact, if I had to rank it as part of my identity, it might supersede just about everything other than being a woman.

I’ve gotten to the point where I can no longer ignore this.  I’ve tried to let writing be a hobby, an interest, and it just hasn’t worked.  This is not some passing phase.  It’s an integral part of who I am.

But now I have to figure out if I can make it work for me.

I’m not impulsive colt, so I’ve had to do some serious soul searching to see if I actually think I can be a writer.  This isn’t the same as seeing if I can actually do the writing.  And if you’re trying to actualize your own dreams, I’d encourage you to think about these two things very carefully.  Because doing the job and living the life are two very different things.

I’m convinced I’ve got the creativity and skill writing requires, but that’s only a small part of what it takes to succeed. I also need the discipline and follow through to succeed.  Since I decided I absolutely knew I wanted to be a writer back in February, I’ve been testing myself since then to see if I can actually do it.  I’ve made myself write almost every day.  And that’s part of the reason I’m starting this blog, to hold myself accountable for keeping up that standard.  Because I have to be able to do it a lot and often if I want to make this my work.   And it turns out, I can.

Another big chuck of it is having the agency and proactiveness to find work.  Because it isn’t just going to fall in your lap.  Writers have to go out there and make connections.  They have to figure out what people want to read and who’s willing to publish it.  Only then are they going to make any money.  And this is no easy task.  It’s time consuming, stressful, and quite frankly, annoying, but it is the way it is.

This is, admittedly, one of my weakest parts.  I’m new to the table, and part of the reason I’m here is to get help figuring this out, but I’m not daunted.  I’m an adult with real responsibilities, but I think I can do it.

So, dear readers, I’d encourage you think similarly if you want to fulfill your dreams.  Figure out, first, why you want to be what you think you want to be.  Make sure you actually want the whole package, look at the good and the bad.  Don’t try to become a neurosurgeon if you just want the money or prestige.  Make sure you can take the long hours.  The sweat.  The blood.  Don’t try and become a movie star just because you want to walk down the red carpet.  If that’s what attracting you, consider carefully why you want that attention, what it means to you, and what your life would really be like if you got it.  If you want to be a super hero…well, I’m sorry, you can’t, because they don’t really exist, but you can still be a hero.  Figure out what it is that excites you about the idea of being a hero and then what real job that corresponds to.   Is it the action you life?  Or the praise?  Or do you just want to see lots of stuff explode?

Spending some time with yourself and seriously considering these things I hope will help your make your best choice.  And if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll figure it out sooner than I did.

Kindly,

Carrie

(Do you like what I have to say?  Find any of it helpful?  Or do you disagree?  Have another point of view?  Let me know in a comment below).