Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ma raison d’être.

I’ve always been a confused soul. I still, at close to 40, don’t know what direction I want to go. Some kids have their future and career all figured out by career day in their sophomore year… others, like me, sort of dangle without bearing or direction pretty much their whole lives, not really fitting in anywhere. The things I went to school for? They are completely uninteresting and useless to me now. We try one type of job, we do pretty well at it, but it gets boring; then we try another type of job, tackle it as a challenge, master it, and then get bored with it and stop caring. That’s been the story of my life. All the assessment tests, IQ tests, career placement tests, all the high-hopes for my becoming an engineer, a scientist or a Nobel Peace Prize winner… Laughable. None of that helps anyone figure out what they are really meant to do, and what really makes them happy and feel fulfilled as human beings.

My résumé is a patchwork. I start my professional life off in the non-profit sector as and AmeriCorps*VISTA and I just go haywire after that… from marketing and graphic design to payroll management, copywriting and ad creation to office management, to now, environmental work. Seriously; it’s like having multiple personality disorder. I can do a wide variety of things, but who looks at a résumé like mine and says: “Whoa, there’s someone who’ll stick around?” Dude, unless the job you’re offering changes constantly, and doesn’t become rote… sure (but that job does not exist). But if I do the same thing year after year… I’m going to move on at some point. As evil Willow says, in my all-time favourite TV series ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’... “Bored now.”

I do know two things for certain: 1) I’m happiest when I’m creating things; and 2) I’m happiest when I have the freedom to really write. Writing is the only consistent craft that has stuck with me from childhood. I’m one of those people that tries everything; wood-carving.. bored with it. Painting.. meh… Pottery… pfft… ::sigh:: Writing on the other hand… that one just never went away. I started reading at a young age, and the idea of being a story-teller was very appealing to me. So I would write clumsy little stories. This sense of creativity was fostered by an exceptional teacher in the fifth grade, who read us wonderful stories, who had us performing abridged versions of Shakespeare, who turned words into images, and who taught us to write, illustrate and to bind our own books.

Life affects your creativity. It’s a given. The more work demands of you, the more your family demands of you, the less you write. In my twenties, I churned out several novels. They were all extremely bad, of course, but it shows that there was a well of creativity and I had the energy to stay up until three or four AM (my creativity really peaks between midnight and four AM—not sure why) and still function at work. Of course, these days, I can’t do those hours any more. The older we get, the less time we have for what is ultimately (unless you’re Stephenie Meyer or JK Rowling) a past-time that is squeezed in between your work day, and children (if you’ve got them) and horses and all other things. I can’t afford to make it my career, so it is a peripheral thing. So I am pretty much always unsatisfied with the way things are. I’d simply rather be writing than doing anything else.

So, I am squeezing what is in essence, my raison d’être into whatever free time I have, and trying my damndest to find that creative pool inside me where I can tap into it. It’s not easy. Stress, family, work… it taps you out. I drive home on my daily commute; an hour each way, and I try to formulate ideas in my head as I do… what’s the idea? Where is the story going? … Most of the time I end up dwelling on immediate concerns; deadlines, parents, family crises, marital spats… It’s really frustrating.

Many of us less than famous authors are faced with this conundrum every day. Somehow, some of us manage to put together a product to sell… Some are good, some are miserably bad… but it’s a hard thing to juggle; trying to succeed as an author in addition to living a life and working a job like every other schlub. We have to dig into our pockets for editors (at least some of us do) and we have to act as designers and marketers to boot. We have to send query after query and receive rejection after rejection. But fundamentally, it’s important to us to get our work out there; as a sense of accomplishment in the art that we love, as a way to validate that this is what we are meant to do. It’s worth it, even if we aren’t selling millions and being picked up by Hollywood; even if we are barely breaking even, or in some cases, losing money.

Writing is my survival… it is my healing. Writing is my escape as much as reading is. When I think I can’t cope, I write. When I feel like I need to express something I’ve been internalizing, I write. I stay up late, and pay for it dearly the next day; I squeeze in some time on my net-pad during lunch, but I write. Jobs and careers might come and go, but all through it, I’m still writing. It’s what I was meant to do.

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