I put my livelihood at the mercy of my words and ability to weave stories
I published my first book in Kindergarten.
Or, at least, that's what I believed in childhood. Back then I believed that all you needed to consider yourself published was a hardbound version of your book and an 'About the Author' blurb. I had both. My Kindergarten teacher must have had a penchant for the literary because she took our 'illustrated' stories, bound them, and gave them to us as keepsakes. I still have mine.
I kept those books even after I learned that the road of a published author is quite a bit longer than a 6-year-old could have reasonably traveled. Once symbols of success, they became etchings on my future. I would be an author. I would write.
But my relationship to words and my love of weaving stories waned as I put years between me and the girl who wrote about dogs and eating dinner with her family. There were teachers who were less than supportive. There were the trappings of middle school and high school, a life that lends itself much less to quiet introspection and much more to just plain living. There were adults who warned, out of love for me, of the dangers of choosing a profession not well known for it’s moneymaking potential. By the time I arrived at college and needed to make a decision, writing was little more than a hobby and it was a stretch to even call it that. I majored in business. I graduated with a degree in business administration and a job as an assistant to a CIO that eventually led me to management at an agency. It was good work and I was good at it. I found time to write on the side and I believed that was enough.
But eventually, the truth that I wasn't following my heart or pursuing my passion caught up with me. When it did, it found me beginning to fail a job I didn't like, daydreaming of being a writer. I began to practice my craft. I’d get home from a day of work, tuck in my children, and then open my comTitle: puter and write. I’d get up before dawn and write some more. Every naptime, every spare minute, found me typing away, putting words to feelings and experiences and weaving stories. I was becoming a writer in the dark hours and I’d talk about it in hushed tones, mostly to myself. Until the afternoon when my boss called to explain that our company was going through some changes. My current job was no longer as secure as it had once been.
In life, there are these moments that define us. There are decisions we make, standing where our road splits, that commit us to one journey over another, no turning back. There are moments we know will change everything and we know we need to choose our words carefully because the imprint they leave will last forever.
With the career I'd built over ten years sitting on shaky ground, I sat with my boss and his boss and I said, “I want to be a writer.” I said it out loud. I shared the work I had done in the dark hours as evidence that I could do it. And then I did it.
I did it for a year. And then I struck out on my own, chasing clients and by lines and putting my livelihood at the mercy of my words and my ability to string them together in a pleasing enough way for people to buy them. And you know, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I worry that this isn’t working, that a passion isn’t a living-making sort of thing. You know, the people who swear that if you choose work you love you’ll never work a day in your life don’t really understand what it is to squeeze words into the nooks and crannies of a life with a family and small children. It is work. It is grueling and exhausting and overwhelming work. Pursuing your passion is work. Don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise.
But for your passion? You do it. You wake up in the darkness and you drag yourself to the coffee and the small bit of light that illuminates your small corner of the world until the sun takes over and you do it. And when you do it? Even if the money isn’t there like you want it to be and the accolades don’t flow in like you dreamed they would and your Kindergarten teacher is still the only person to have bound your words by hardback covers, the work is worth it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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