Justifications and Pretenses

Before I left for New York City, I had a long conversation with my mom about various career changes going on in my life. “I don’t know,” I told her. “In five or six months, I may just be working part time for X, and not even try to find another job. I could work on my writing.”

It was such a stereotypical pipe-dream-of-everyone’s thing to say that I almost didn’t say it, and regretted the words almost immediately after they came out of my mouth. You never talk about writing more. You just do it, or you don’t. Future plans voiced aloud (especially about writing and travel) are just a more discreet variety of excuse, apology.

But thankfully my mother, like my former therapist, does not take any of my bullshit. “If you’re going to do that,” she responded, “you’d have to be really, really passionate about it. Are you that passionate? I’m not sure. You don’t have that bug-eyed look.”

It was the perfect response for two reasons:

1. It irked me, and

2. I realized, in a way, she was right. I’m passionate about writing, but I’m not passionate about getting published.

And why aren’t I passionate about getting published? Because it will probably involve a lot of work that will be fruitless. Like college essay writing, I’ll chuck a couple of hours into something and will likely have nothing to show for it. It will require a certain relentless confidence and, simultaneously, a lack of pride, like asking boys on dates, over and over and over, without wondering “Christ, why can’t one of them just ask me out, for a change?” I want the boy to be the one finding me, preferably while I’m doing something beautiful (weaving, climbing trees) alone in a dewy meadow somewhere. Basically, because I don’t think it would be easy. Aha!

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  1. One reason why I gave up on the idea of getting published – and subsequently dropped work on any long term writing projects – was that I realized that getting published is a totally different beast from writing. I enjoy writing; it’s creative. But getting published is the complete opposite, at least the first time out. It’s a lot of repetitive work, mailing and mailing and e-mailing, and then you have to do more and more drafts for agents and for editors and it adds a year or two onto a project that you thought was done a long time ago. And then, 90% of the time, it comes out to no fanfare, gets forgotten, and theres no financial reward for all your work. It seems like it would be completely frustrating. The web isn’t as satisfying – but I prefer putting my creative projects there; its a lot more immediate, and doesn’t do as much to destroy the happy feelings writing can give me.

  2. Here’s why it’s worth doing — you’re good enough that you could actually do it. Those of us who aren’t will be really pissed at you if you pass up the chance.

  3. Telling everyone I was going to move to Hawai’i was maybe 30% of my motivation to actually move there, because I would have looked like a loser had I NOT moved there. So after a few weeks of talking it up, I was like, ‘well, I guess I have to move to Hawai’i now,’ and bought a plane ticket. So at least for me, more people I tell about things, the more it gets me to actually do them. It tends to work that way with writing also. That might be kind of a messed-up way to do it though…

  4. And then you have to actually work a job for money on top of that to pay for things like, you know, food and housing and stuff. And you could just as easily spend that time eating food and drinking and having a good time. This is why I will never be a “real” artist.

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