Why aren’t you making a career with your writing? It’s a question I’ve been asked what seems like an inordinate amount as of late. It’s as if the universe is converging on me from all angles to remind me, you would think unnecessarily, of that thing I love and why I should be pursuing it. It all started with a text conversation with my best friend Meg. She was walking down the steps at the train station on her daily commute and suddenly found herself thinking of all the playwriting I did in college. Random. “I swear, I did!” She promised me. “You were so into writing then.” She continued. Oof. Total gut punch.
It’s not that Meg intended to zing me or say anything remotely hurtful. It was just one of those off the cuff comments that gets to the heart of the matter and cuts right through you. And as a result I thought about it. A lot. Arguably it’s much easier to be “into writing” when you’re in college and you have no real responsibilities outside of class. Typically, you’re not paying a mortgage, a car payment, or worrying about your health insurance. Your biggest worry is usually a hangover or cranking out that 20 page term paper overnight. It’s much easier in that environment to devote a lazy afternoon to working on your “masterpiece”. As an adult, it can be much harder to motivate yourself. You get up early, work all day, and when you come home, often you just want to veg out and turn your brain off. For me, even as a huge movie nerd, sometimes watching a new film is even more than I can stand because I want to avoid thinking just that much.
But still, I love writing. It’s something I can comfortably say that I am good at. And so, theoretically it shouldn’t be so hard for me to make time for. At times, I’ve beaten myself up for not writing and wondered if maybe my lack of production and motivation was a sign that I didn’t love it “enough” to make a go of it. Ultimately I think that’s bullshit. Success and a career isn’t guaranteed to even those who want it the most. It’s not a movie magic twist of fate. If I’m honest with myself, it’s mostly a flaw in my own DNA, not a lack of love or desire, that makes it hard for me to motivate myself. It’s something that bleeds into all aspects of my life. It’s perhaps my fatal flaw. This is going to make me sound like a real douche but bear with me. I’m pretty good at most things I try. I tend to be a fast learner and while I’m by no means an expert at anything, I can usually pick up on something pretty quickly and be average or a little above right way. And so, when things are hard for me, when they require some real blood, sweat, and tears, sometimes (ok a lot of the time) (ok almost always) I have a tendency to bail. Poor me, right? I know. I’m coming off as a real asshole right now.
And so, here we are back at the original question I’ve been asked so much lately – why aren’t you making a career with your writing? Because I’m being an asshole, I guess is the most direct answer. Because I’m getting in my own way and wasting my own time, is probably the more specific one. But the silver lining to that brutal honesty is that I can fix it. I’m the master of my own destiny. It’s probably the biggest, most obvious lesson I’ve learned in my late 20s and early 30s. There’s a lot we can’t control in this world – the list seems to be getting longer by the day. But we can always control ourselves, our perspective, and our approach. I could have looked at all these inquiries about my writing as a downer, and I definitely let myself have a pity party for a hot minute or two. But ultimately, I’ve looked at them as a chance to reevaluate my approach to writing and reassess my priorities. It’s never too late to start over. Hopefully ten years from now Meg with have another random thought and texting me about this time in my life will say something like, “that’s when you got so into writing again.”