Thursday, January 5, 2012
If you didn't write, what would you do?
I'm not sure how I feel about that. What does it mean that I feel that way? Why did I get into writing in the first place? I got into it because of the fulfillment and genuine joy it brings me. This may sound ridiculous, but I sort of feel like I don't and never did really have a choice. I don't want to go so far as to call writing a "calling", but its been with me and part of me for as long as I can remember. There have been times when I've wanted to write and do something else (photograph for National Geographic was a big one), but I've always wanted to write. I don't know what I would do if I didn't write. I'm not saying I couldn't live, I really just don't know what I'd do instead.
That could be an interesting mental exercise. What would it feel like to just completely drop the writing ball right now, and what would I do instead? I actually think these are good questions to ask, especially for me at this point, because I've been so focused on the career/business aspect of a writing career. It would be good to remind myself why I love writing in the first place.
So, what would it feel like? Very scary, first of all. I would feel very hollow. I would feel like the effort I've put into things all these years would have gone to waste, and that I would be behind in whatever else I decided to do. I would jump into whatever else I decided to do with my whole soul and kind of go bat crap crazy about it just because I don't know any other way to do things. It would be the littlest bit exciting, and I would have fun going through possibilities. The first one that comes to mind is aiming for a career at some place like National Geographic or the World Wildlife Fund or some other environmental non-profit agency. That seems like it could be amazing.
But would something like that, or any other career be as fulfilling? I'm thinking out-loud and trying to be totally honest with myself here. I really don't think it would. I mean, it would be incredibly fulfilling, but it would not feel as personal. I love the idea that through writing, I will never die, or that I can continue to be an influence in the world not just generally, but in a very personal way. I could see acting filling that same personally fulfilling need, but I don't know if it would go as deep, and I'm pretty positive I don't have the claws it takes to succeed in that industry these days.
I'm having a hard time being patient with writing right now, which is why I think this exercise has been helpful. It has actually been extremely helpful. I'm allowing myself to imagine life without going crazy about a writing career, and as refreshing as it seems in some ways, I don't want it. I'm impatient right now, but that's all it is. Impatience. I'm doing the planting and sowing, I just have to wait for the harvesting and reaping. But it will come, and this is the garden I want to plant in. For sure.
Another way it has been helpful though, is that I've been having day-job uncertainties. Because all I want is writing, I've been unsure about what to do in terms of supporting myself. Just last night I was telling my roomie that I was in this weird place of not being totally stable but not really knowing what I wanted as far as jobs go. But this helped me realize that there are other things that would be amazing that could support me and that I could do as well as write. The environmental agency thing is sounding better and better, and every writer needs a second career as well, right? Who says they have to be mutually exclusive? Because I'm so obsessive it takes extra thought for me to imagine things in a dual-career kind of way--how do you obsess over and give yourself to more than one thing?--but I don't think it has to be that way necessarily. I might have to start doing some research and see what I can see.
Whew. Thanks for letting me do that, guys. I actually feel like I've just aired out and sorted a mental file cabinet. What would your answers be? Could you imagine life without writing, and what would you do instead?