I suspect a lot of people who read my tweets the other day about giving up on writing thought I was having a snit because I didn’t get into Clarion. I wanted to clarify my stance on this, because it’s hard to explain on Twitter the underlying truth behind my statements (and I probably shouldn’t have tried, anyway, but that’s another story).
I had, actually, already decided that I was going to give professional writing another year before I moved on to a less Sisyphean life-work. And I was really hoping I could leverage the Clarion thing in the meantime, get a leg up in that last push to break through the ceiling I’ve been hitting. So yes, I am frustrated, and gobsmacked, and disappointed; but when I say I may be giving up on writing, I’m also being practical.
I’ve been trying to break into the professional world for 18 years now. At 52, I’m beginning to feel my mortality; several of my friends are sick or dying, a number of them have already died, and I’m looking around me and wondering what I really want for whatever time is left to me. Based on my friends and my aging parents and all my favorite role models that have died this year, I am coming to realize that I don’t have the rest of eternity to do something with my life. So the decision to give writing another year is not so much pouting as self-preservation. I want to have a joyous life, to be healthy and happy, and to do something meaningful that has an impact on other people. I don’t want to scribble quietly to myself until I’m old and then die, having made no impression at all on the world (and especially, I don’t want to give up on making other beautiful things in the effort of doing that). If writing is not doing it, I’m going to have to give it up at some point. I want to use my time wisely.
And you know, it’s not like I don’t have other mad skillz to draw on, so maybe, if this isn’t working, I should go do some of those things! I have a degree in fashion design and have worked in garment production, I have an MFA in sculpture, and I have plenty of ideas for amazing business ventures that I’ve been dying to do, but been putting off in an effort to get somewhere with my writing. I tried doing both writing and those things, but with teenage children and aging parents and a job, it was just too much. So I concentrated on the writing.
So I’m crossing my fingers and holding my breath that some agent will love my book and get me properly published.
To be honest, by letting go of my desire to be published I actually find my writing is improving. I have been increasingly making myself miserable in the effort to write something, anything that will sell — and by giving myself permission to shrug it off, I am freeing myself up to write what I WANT, rather than what I think publishers will like. In that moment where I said, “fuck you guys! I’m going to just write for fun,” I have found a certain amount of passion that had been slowly draining away over the past few years. Let’s see how the next 9 months go. Whatever happens, I am feeling better for having the time limit. It seems to be giving me more options, rather than less.