Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Don't quit your day job

I have always been a woman of pipe dreams. When I grew up, I wanted to be a writer, a doctor (a pipe dream if you know me and my academic tendencies), a musician, an actress, a bookstore/coffeeshop owner...the list goes on. Some of them seemed normal - doctor, nurse, lawyer - until I realized that I didn't want to go to school for them, I just wanted to do them. All the glory, none of the hard work. It's the American dream!

Turns out, hospitals won't just let you show up for surgery if you're not actually a doctor. And clients won't just hire you because you watched My Cousin Vinny and The Firm a few dozen times. I turned to the arts - music, acting, writing - in an effort to bypass all that "learnin" business. I figured I didn't actually have to be good at what I did to make money at it. What I learned from my few brief years as a "musician" here in Austin (read: coffee shops and Italian restaurants) is that just because someone isn't good doesn't mean they don't work their butts off. Sure, a kernel of talent would be nice, but even those at the top of their fields worked very hard to get there.

When I first got into publishing and started reading the industry blogs (you can visit any in my electronic hug department to know who I'm talking about), I got really annoyed. All the advice said you needed to write as much as possible, and most of that writing wouldn't see the light of day after it was said and done. And then, they had the nerve to say "don't expect to make much money from writing, especially in the beginning." Say wha?

I should mention something here. These pipe dreams of mine, they all brought me instant wealth and accolades and allowed me to retire at a very young age and live a life of luxury and laziness. As a writer, I had visions of myself lounging indolently on tropical beaches, sipping a Jamaican Smile and clicking away on my little netbook as the waves gently lapped my toes. Or curled up in a recliner next to the window of a ski chalet, bundled up in blankets and sipping Swiss hot chocolate as I watched the snow gently falling outside the big bay window, clicking away on my little netbook. Those are totally realistic fantasies, right?

Uh, turns out, not so much. Writing, just like any other profession, takes work and dedication. And it often means having to work your "day job" while you're writing and promotion your books on the side. AND most employers don't allow drinking on the job, so there goes the Jamaican Smile. Bootastic.

And yet, I keep writing. Perhaps there's real passion there, perhaps my focus has honed with age, or perhaps it's more entertaining than watching Til Death (seriously, how is that show still on?). Whatever the answer, I'm still writing, and while the dreams are still lurking in the back of my mind - okay, maybe not a tropical beach, but if I dump a bunch of sand next to a kiddie pool in my backyard - I'm more focused on growing my writing into a real career. It might be 20 years from now, and I recognize there's a real possibility it might be never be a reality, but this is one pipe dream I'm holding onto for a little while longer.

And if it doesn't work out, I've always got my rocket science pipe dream to fall back on, right?


ashbo said...

Bookstore/coffee shop owner! With me! Dude, we'd have the BEST snickerdoodles in town.

JEM said...

I must now demand snickerdoodles of you when you are in town.