Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Why the absence? A reflection on Home's Book Birthday

I have been absent lately.

I don't mean to be.

But things are shifting in my life. My energies are being redirected in so many ways.

Home is having a book birthday today. A cause for celebration, right? Well, about that...

No excuses here, other than I started feeling really rotten in April. I tried to promote the book, but it felt like too much responsibility and that I didn't have enough flexibility. Are there things I wish I could have done differently? Absolutely. And, I'll be honest, I started writing Home in 2012 during NaNoWriMo, and it's really the last book that's flowed out of my mind onto the page.

I miss that kind of fervor and excitement about writing. I don't feel like I've had exciting ideas to write about for a while. That passion seems to have eeked out of my life. And I got upset and scared about it. I honestly thought that publishing my first novel, once I was offered the chance, would reinvigorate me.

Guess what, it didn't.

I've felt a bit formless when I saw the criticism of my book (not that I'm complaining about it, it's valid criticism and I'm thankful for it, but if your curiosity is getting to you, here it is). It made me super-critical of my own writing. Am I even capable of being a writer? Critical people are saying it's not original and my editing is garbage. My book didn't sell thousands of copies! I'm losing money on writing! Was this book a failure? Should I have tried harder with the agent querying? Did I have any business trying to publish this manuscript at all? Was I really ready? Are my stories even worth reading?

I try to comfort myself in that my publisher believed in my book instead of beating myself up. That should be enough, right? I feel bad not trusting in that.

But I have to factor in that I have also had a rough couple of years. In June of 2016, I was laid off from my job and started driving Uber full time. I've tried multiple jobs since then: selling insurance, customer service in an accounting firm, and recently, I took a job at a hotel that ended up not working out and I'm going back to a soul-sucking customer service call center until I find something better. I also went through a very violent series of events that were difficult to process in 2016 (no, I'm not talking about them yet). I remember Elizabeth Gilbert talking about in her book Big Magic the story of a man who told an author "I haven't been successful in writing. I'm so down on myself, what advice can you give me?" And the author told him. "Quit." Cruel, right? Wrong. When you're not happy, you're not bringing joy to your creation. You readers will know this, even if you don't want them to. Creativity shouldn't be painful. It shouldn't be abusive, it should be loved and respected. And I haven't been too nice to myself, either. A lot of the things I went to therapy for have been sneaking back into my life, and I know it. I don't want to be a dark and tortured artist that's abusive to the people I love. I want joy in my creative process.

Then, I realized that things weren't going to get better until I stopped taking "for now" jobs until I made it as a writer. I need a fall-back career. A real one. I don't have a spouse to rely on, it's just me supporting myself. When I was acting, the best advice I got was "Don't go into an audition like you need this part or you will fail at life." And I realized, that's what I'm doing with my writing. A lot of people are surprised I'm not writing and that's not my full-time income. Few writers that aren't with the Big 5 (or Big 4 or however few large publishing houses there are after corporate mergers these days) actually make a living writing. That's what struck me: I'm trying to publish every project like it'll make or break me. I need to treat writing as a side job, not a career, unless it becomes lucrative enough to be one.

So, I've decided to try to get into a master's program so I'm not stuck in $15/hr jobs for the rest of my life, with benefits not always offered. $15/hr is nice. It's not bad, but it's not good, either. I can pay 75% of my bills (and I have to have a second job to support myself 100%), but I can't save money towards car or medical emergencies. I'm still paying off my medical bills from 2012 when I wasn't being offered medical insurance at any of my jobs and in so much pain I wasn't sure I could survive. If you can get out of poverty without at least a master's degree, I admire you. But that's not my path, I'm pretty certain. So, I'm applying to get into a Master's program of Marriage and Family Therapy so I can be a threrapist, my main goal being to open a private practice. Yes, therapists have problems of their own. A lot of them go to therapists to just keep their heads level, too. I'm not in, yet, but I am studying for the GRE (in the US, you have to take that to apply for most graduate programs) and working on studying for Statistics. I am not a math person, but I'm making plans on how to support myself during grad school, since it looks like after the first semester, I won't be able to work full-time in an office, so I have to 1. save what I can and 2. make sure I have a job that I can work that will be lucrative enough to support me for the other 5 semesters while doing my clinical hours.

It tough. A lot of people don't think I have the focus to do this. People tell me it's a pipe dream and I haven't done my research and I don't know what I'm getting myself into. It's maddening. It makes me feel like they're telling me I'm too stupid. I refuse to believe that I'm stupid and I will fight them on that.

No, I am not giving up writing. But I think I can do a lot of good as a therapist. Heaven knows good ones are needed. But the books will come slowly, and if I have the time. The next few years are going to be tough, but I've got to do this and change the direction in my life.

No comments:

Post a Comment