I woke up this morning without a job to go to. Friday was my last day at work. For the past four and a half years I’ve been a writer for Ballotpedia. It was the best job that I have ever had. I quit to pursue my dream of writing fiction. For the first time ever, the above quote from Fitzgerald no longer applies. After a lot of hard work and sacrifices I’ve gotten myself into a situation where I can survive (at least for a couple of months) without a job and can focus solely on writing. I’m well aware that the likelihood of any sort of success in the field is minimal, something that has been reinforced by the naysayers, but I have found more encouragement from family and friends than I would have ever expected.
There are two things that have mattered in my life – love & writing. I have thrown myself completely into love time and time again and failed miserably. I have never fully thrown myself into writing – fail at love and at least you have a good story to write about, fail at writing and you’ve really got nothing except for a reason to drink. With this opportunity I have carved out for myself, it is time to find out if writing is the be-all end-all that I believe it to be for me, or if I’m simply a bunch of talk and the occasional short story.
If you have a dream and aren’t chasing it or trying to find a way to chase it, you’re either doing something wrong or it’s not much of a dream. For longer than I’d like to think about I was doing something wrong. I was allowing guilt and fear to run my life. The idea of focusing on something as self-absorbed as writing fiction when the world is a mess and so many people need help, filled me with an extraordinary amount of guilt. As Tim Kasher sums it up in his song Strays:
Writers are selfish
Writers are egotists
I’m afraid I’m as bad as it gets.
On top of that there’s the fear that such a venture will result in complete and utter failure. Having a dream is one thing, and as long as it simply stays a dream, it will always be there to draw on, to talk about, to daydream of. But take concrete steps to turn it into a reality, and abject fear stares you in the face. For me, perhaps the worst fear has been not failing in itself, but what would stem from that, namely that the dream would no longer be there to fall back on. I would no longer be able to say, “Everything’ll be okay because one day I’ll be able to write and write and write just like I’ve wanted to for so long.” With that gone, what’s left? For me, not much. Long before puberty there was always a girl for me, one to dream about, one that I was going to make happy and vice versa. One by one they came and went, and each time the dream ended I was crushed and left floating aimlessly for a long time afterwards. But even with each of them, the idea of writing was always there to fall back on. If that fell, I don’t know what there would be.
What I do know is that it’s time to take the chance even though that’s the possible outcome. Forget the guilt and forget the fear, this is what I want to do and I go into it with clear eyes open to the struggle that is trying to carve out even the tiniest niche in fiction writing. But it’s the only thing that I feel passionate about anymore – what other choice do I have?