Friday, January 13, 2012

The Perils of Indecisiveness

I have been diligently chewing over an array of ideas for my next blog post, but I have been unable to commit to one. So we’re going to go with the theme “Inability to Commit.”

My inability to make a decision and stick with it is the only reason I haven’t gotten a tattoo. I exercise woman’s prerogative to change her mind more diligently than I should, and there isn’t an element of life in existence that I can’t over-think. I can’t even park the car at Target without calculating exit strategies and traffic patterns and cart return techniques. It’s a little scary.

I was one of those “cradle novelists” – people so driven to write that they begin creating stories before they’ve even learned their alphabet. So why did it take me all these years to finally pursue that drive to create?

Even when it is, figuratively speaking, “true love” and you know to the bottom of your soul that it is all that you really want, it is an incredibly difficult path to choose. Teachers, parents, friends, strangers on the bus… they will all tell you, “Hey, that’s great that you want to be a novelist. But it’s really hard to get published, let alone make a living off of it. You need to figure out what you’re going to do to pay the bills.” They’re not wrong, exactly, but this advice comes with a very pernicious subliminal message: writing is a hobby to do in your spare time, not a career.

And so begins the gradual erosion of confidence. The thinking that you cannot choose to be a professional writer leads to the conviction that you lack sufficient skill to be one of the hallowed few to actually become successful authors. This then leads you to the sneaking suspicion that you are actually a talentless hack.

Next thing you know, you’re working as a paralegal, proofreading patent applications for toilet seats.

Scary, huh?

If someone had said to me all those years ago, “Hey, maybe you should just give it a shot before you’ve got kids and a mortgage and all that,” would I have had the courage to try? I have no way of knowing. Nor do I even necessarily believe that it would have been the best choice to make. Even successful authors discourage would-be writers from trying to live off their writing alone.

What my experiences did prove to me is that if you cannot make a choice – if you float through life just taking the path of least resistance – you will never achieve your true goals. At some point, you have to stand up and say “no” to the people in your life – the family, friends, and coworkers who push you into things you don’t really want for yourself. You have to stand in your truth, which means committing to yourself.

It’s a little sad that committing to yourself is harder than committing to another person. I was 100% more terrified of taking the plunge and really trying to succeed as an author than I was of walking down the aisle and pledging to spend the rest of my life with this really cute boy I met at college. And the commitment is key.

Whether you have a day job or not, you absolutely MUST commit yourself to your writing if you wish to succeed. You cannot finish a novel, edit it thoroughly, find an agent and publisher, or self-publish without that commitment. This is not a hobby like knitting – you can’t set your project aside until you have a long weekend or a vacation. This is a career that can coexist with other careers, but it is a career nonetheless. You wouldn’t call your boss and say, “Hey, I’m not going to work for a couple months because I’ve just got too much other stuff going on.” To become an author, you have to treat your writing with the same level of dedication and respect that you would give to an office job. If your work ethic would get you fired from a traditional job, then you won’t succeed at writing either.

Set hours for yourself – create deadlines. Commit to your writing if you want to actually succeed.


Authors Promoting Authors said...

As writers, I think these are all thoughts that we have at one time or another.
And I am with you on the tattoo: I like the idea of it but the thought of committing to it and being stuck with it forever....

Shah Wharton said...

I wanted to write forever. Mentioning this in my home provoked only "Yeah, and I want to fly to the moon,' type-comments. I'm almost 40 and have finally put my reservations to one side in order to attempt the job of writing something to be published.

But lack of commitment and confidence are constant stumbling blocks for me. All annoyingly of my own making. This is why I'm blogging now, when I should be working on my manuscript.

I've joined ROW80 this year in order to be more goal driven in my writing life. It works to some degree. Ultimately though, it is all down to me to work at it, as you say.