Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Part of the Majority

I’ve blogged a bit (in scattered sections) of my “limited” success in writing: mainly short fiction a few years ago, but also some article/newspaper publishing even farther back.

I don’t mean to be self-depreciating when I talk about my publications this way. In many aspects, limited is better than the alternative. What I’ve come to realize over the years is that the writing life is made up of dedicated obsessives; those who continue to work on their craft but have no substantial rewards to show for it.

Most writers are really part-time, whether they want to be or not. Easily 95% of the articles/novels/shorts you read are from people who have to “work” at other jobs. Writing may take up 20 hours of the week, but another 40 or so has to be dedicated to what some would call “a real job.”

I fall into that majority. I teach English for a living. However, I’m one of the lucky ones, in that I love my job. Almost every day I find some value in what I do. That’s unique, not only for those who wish they could devote all their time to the written word, but for most of everyone else out there to. I’m blessed in that aspect.

It wasn’t always that way, of course. In my 20s, I hopped from job to job (and college to college). Writing was meant to be an escape from my life; it was my ticket out of a mundane routine I hated. I ached for the glory of being a Writer – capital W, cause it’s damn important! In that youthful desperate state, I also believed that great writing can’t be taught. Why go to some writing workshop/class/degree program when creativity was really all about inspiration.

Yeah, I was an idiot. Worse, actually. I was an idiot who didn’t realize he was being idiotic.

It wasn’t until in my mid-30s where I began to see some basic truths. The first thing I had to accept is that good writing is damn hard. Great writing is damn near impossible. And that workshops et al are the necessary steps for poor semi-talented slobs like me to gain some insight and get better.

Around that same time, I also decided to find something else that I love to do -- and that something else really needed to bring in some cash. With my recent EngLit degree, I started teaching. Not full time, but night school or off-campus classes. I still had to keep another job (for rent, food, and those other annoying necessities), but it got my foot in the door, gained me experience, and started me on the right path. Once again, lucky me. Teaching is a job that suits me well, and eventually a couple of decades later (and a lot of adventures in between), I ended up with a wonderful university making more than enough cash to be comfortable.

Doing all that allowed me to refocus on what's important in being a writer, too. I knuckled down and began taking the nuts and bolts of editing seriously. I began spending much more time on honing my craft, instead of reveling in my story.

Now writing is what it’s meant to be. Not an escape, but a release of emotion. A way to affect others. A connection to what binds us all together. I may only have “limited” success, but I’m happier now with my writing than I’ve ever been. I think that’s because I’m happier with my life now than I’ve ever been. Still got a long way to go, but at least I’m looking forward.

1 comment:

  1. Ok the positivity in this post was much needed after I depressed myself in my comment under 'Novel Progress Update' ...

    Although I do love my job and enjoy other projects I'm involved in, it does get a bit overwhelming at times. Balancing the demands of reality and still making time to sit down and write has been a struggle. Still, I too am trying to stay positive.