Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Path to Becoming A Writer

Recently someone e-mailed to ask about the path I took: the career path followed to get to the place where I am. This person was exploring possibilities for career change. He had a job that did not fulfill him, but that enriched him in physical ways: good money, benefits, retirement possibilities after what currently seemed like an endless investment of years.

So what path had I taken? I sat and looked at the words for full minutes -- five. Maybe ten -- before I could formulate anything that even resembled an answer.

And then I realized: there had been no path. “Path” suggests something sane and sensible. My life hasn’t been like that. It is precarious. It has always been. You do it because you have stories to tell that will make you bleed if they go untold. They reverberate so starkly inside you that you need to do whatever you have to to get them out. That’s not a way of being that describes anything as sane as a “path.” More like a force that pushes and/or guides you.

So paths: the best most sensible path for someone to take if they already have a job that they perhaps do not love but that pays is simply to get up earlier. Don’t do less, do more. Writing doesn’t need to be one or the other. But it can be the salve that makes the rest of it work.

I didn’t explain that well. I’ll try again.

I have heard from many, many people that they wrote their first book while doing a job that did not please them. They carved an extra hour from their day and used it to write their first book. After their writing time, they would go to their job where they'd be able to use some of their workday ruminating on what they'd written and what they would write next, moving the book forward in that way.

That would be a sensible path for someone considering change. But is it the correct one? I don’t think there is a correct path for someone wanting to be a writer. And no clearcut one. The journey is always deeply personal and dictated by your own needs and desires and -- yes -- gifts and talents.

So that ragged path looks something like this:
  • In the first place, one should be writing because one has to.
  • One continues to work if there are bills to pay. 
  • And if one wakes up one morning and the money from the writing is equal to or greater than the bills, one quits the job.
That is the sensible course. But is it the right course? Maybe one day you’ll let me know.

1 comment:

New-L said...

Thank you for this Linda! Your words of wisdom can apply to everyone who is driven to move into something they feel is powerful and purposeful for them.

As the magnet on my fridge says: "Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a track." ~R.W.Emerson
Chris