Here’s a tip for the non-writers out there. Don’t ask a writer when they will be “finished” on their novel. Also, don’t ask them when they’re going to start making money and finally be a “proper” writer.
Last week an off the cuff comment containing both those sentences sent me into a tail spin. I was already having enough trouble dragging myself out of bed after having effectively been made redundant again and the crushing realisation that some of the ‘things’ I’d always dreamed of were in fact, only dreams and weren’t in all likelihood going to happen.
Add to that I was having some serious withdrawal issues that usually accompany change in my world and the pressure to justify my desire to write was crushing.
When will I finish my novel? When I do. When will I make money from my writing and be a proper writer? When it happens. Not a minute before hand.
Regardless of whether or not I make money from it, I am already a proper writer. I sit down to a blank screen and pour my heart and soul into the words I use to shape the stories I tell. That makes me a writer.
I may not be JK Rowling or Jackie Collins, but that doesn’t negate the effort I put into it. Once upon a time, JK Rowling wasn’t JK Rowling either, but she worked hard, committed herself to her goals and became, JK Rowling.
It is a hard place to be, to have those around you measure your worth by your financial abilities. I guess the reality is people who don’t write, don’t understand the burning need to “tell the story,” that writers face.
I become obsessed with my words. I realised on the weekend I spend about 90 per cent of my time in a world of my own creation. I don’t write to make anyone like me, I write because not to write is much more painful than sitting in a lonely room with nothing but phantom voices and worlds that don’t really exist as company.
Doubt and worry are a part of my life. They always have been. The first time my inner critic hit me with “you’re a washed up loser,” I was 18 and couldn’t find a job. The fact Australia was going through a recession and no one could find work was irrelevant. The inner critic is my biggest obstacle in achieving anything.
I wrote a tweet last night that said “if someone else spoke to us the way our inner voices do, we’d cut them free without a backward glance.” It’s true. It’s also true that it is hard to admit your greatest nemesis is inside your own head. It’s easy to escape the bullies in the real world – well easier – but it’s damn near impossible to escape the bullies you carry with you.
Yesterday morning – well afternoon I didn’t get out of bed until after midday – I went through my house and threw away all my wine again. Again! I do it sporadically when I realise I’m falling into old patterns of misbehaviour. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve turned to the “bottle” when things go pear shaped. It doesn’t help. You can’t drown your demons when the bastards know who to swim.
I moped about feeling sorry for myself. I also had a nice little panic attack when I went outside to have a cigarette. And I realised I’ve again fallen into old patterns that do not help me achieve anything, but instead reinforce in myself my belief that I am too weak to achieve anything.
My mother asked me a question the other day and I simply replied “I just want to stop being afraid of everything, all the time.” It’s not something I’m comfortable admitting, but there you have it.
Yesterday, with the hangover from hell and a mouth that felt like a cat had gone to sleep in it, I decided I had to make me important. Not because I am better than anyone else, but because if I don’t make my life my full time job, nothing will ever change. I have to stop worrying about letting other people down and instead do whatever it takes to ensure I don’t let me down.
So I dragged myself off my bed and starting updating my resume. It may not sound like a lot, but it was a start.
Today I applied for a couple of jobs and I began the process of pulling myself together. I said to a friend yesterday that I don’t want a career. It’s true, although it seems blasphemous to say so out loud.
I’ve never wanted a high powered career. I want to write. That is the career I want. To write stories, to entertain. Even admitting that in a safe corner was hard to say.
All I want is a job that pays the bills, leaves a little over at the end of each month. I don’t want to be worried about work all the time. I don’t want to sit on the train mulling over this problem or that. All I want is to walk in, do the job, walk out and go home. All I want – and from now on, my only priority – is to write.
I once had an elderly relative tell me that being a writer was a delusion. He told me I’d end up dying in poverty with no one who would even notice I’d drop dead. It was one of those conversations that gutted me. That conversation happened a long time ago and I’ve been working to throw him out of my head ever since.
Last weekend – and in particular yesterday – I realised that if that’s what it takes, so be it. Will I be happy with a job that consumes my every waking moment if it means I can’t write. No, I won’t. I’ve had them. I hated them.
For me, the only thing of any importance is my ability to sit down and weave tales of adventure or humour, or love, lust and betrayal. It doesn’t matter what I write, just so long as I do.
Whatever the future holds for me the one priority I will focus on between now and the end is my writing. It’s all I want, and I’m frankly sick of making my writing my Plan B.
I don’t know if having a Plan B is a smart move really. It seems to give you the opportunity to cut corners. I have a Plan A and only a Plan A from now on. I’ve got no idea if I can pull it off, but it will be an adventure finding out.
Oh for the joys of fictional writing; escaping one’s solitary prison; turning that lock-down into an adventure , battling those demons with truncheons, heroes with viable tunneling plans and equipment!
But in the background? Social isolation, toxic addictions, gambling with meaning, craving an audience interested in what one has fashioned (and the inner and outer critics to chime, prison escape plots have had there time… no book signing, lecture tours likely; bills still to be paid monthly, oh the cost of smokes and wine!)
But not to whine, a puff and a pun and a rhyme, waving a flag all your own, to surface in Freedom’s parking-lot, stripping off that dirty striped shirt! And as the story goes, helping that rich old-codger ( could be me in retirement’s superannuated splendor with my new 4-wheel car), helping to hoist that leather lounge on his roof-racks, getting an invitation back to his Vaucluse home, sole beneficiary to a tidy inheritance…
So it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut offhandedly mentions; but wicked butter, gin in the cupboard and that wish to escape all over again. Maybe pen a letter to a long-lost friend,
search facebook and see if the fish are biting, join a poetry site with prompts for contests,
try my hand at elastic verse, win pretend gold now and then…write about the view across
the sunny harbours entrance, where those little subs got in…
Anyway Mike, as they say in the reading business, enjoyed, pressed thumbs- up to your candid write!
Best of writing times