I cannot speak for other writers, only for myself, yet I’ve heard others say what I am about to say: that is . . . if you can possibly choose a career other than a writer, for Heaven’s sake, chose it. For in truth, most writers I know live isolated, tortured lives, engaged in a perpetual battle with their own melancholic demons, fending off constant fears of failure or that queasy feeling that they are nothing but a fraud. This is especially true for writers whose work is deeply polemic or poetic in nature.
I, myself, have been posing as writer for many years, so I know from whence I speak. Yet, this was not the life I chose: it chose me, a middle-aged dyslexic; sure proof that our benevolent Creator has a keen sense of humor. However, if this is your fate, as it seems to be mine, to live the writer’s life, then, this is what you must do . . .
Don’t give up your day job, at least not until Oprah picks your book. Do give up working a “regular” job, by that I mean you must find a job that puts food on the table without robbing you of that precious commodity we call time. This is not an easy task.
You must find a job where it doesn’t matter that you’ve only slept three hours because some insomniac muse sent you to your desk at three am. A job that doesn’t steal your precious energy and attention away from that new character in your novel named Ned. The young incorrigible, who has completely charmed you, seduced you, into discounting his shadow side along with the mysterious shoebox full of cash and the pearl-handled pistol under his bed.
You must find a job that allows for long periods of reflection, preferably with a place to lie down and nap as often as necessary. A job that values your finicky artistic foibles such as drafting character sketches of fellow sales associates on yellow legal pads in the guise of taking prodigious notes at the sales meeting. Or, someplace, where the work culture will overlook an urgent need to sacrifice the last of the neon pink Post Its for the final plot outline of that three-act play on the employee bulletin board.
When I say this is the kind of job you must have, I mean it. Because, though I do not know you, I, as a fellow writer, do have some sympathy for you and I do not want you to suffer the fate of so many of our formally creative counterparts. My ultimate goal is to keep your pockets free from stones, to steer you clear from raging rivers, high windows, bridges and the like. I want to keep the cork on the bottle and the pills on the shelf or better yet, back at the pharmacy. I want to keep the pen in your hand, the hope in your heart, and the focus on your work, which is, of course, is the only way you will be able to sustain your writer’s life.
If you must write, then write. Every day. For in this process, in this discipleship, you may discover why you are here and why you do what you do. You may come to understand that with every stroke of your pen, with every breath you take, with every beat of your heart, you are indeed writing your own life. And you—yes you—my friend, may come to understand that you—you yourself—play a vital part in God’s greatest poem. And every writer knows, every writer will tell you that every word has a purpose, every word counts.