A couple of years ago, after a particularly grueling day at work, I met up with A, one of my dearest friends in London, at (one of) our local(s). Over a pint of what was likely either Strongbow or Leffe, I disclosed one of my far-away dreams: to become a writer. “God – picture it!” I told him. “Wake up at 8 or 9 – none of this 6:30 business anymore. Do some yoga, have a shower, take your laptop to your favorite caf’ where you people-watch until the inspiration takes you…what a life.”
“Yeah, but,” he replied, most likely exhaling from his cigarette, “you’re supposed to become a writer because you’re passionate – not because you’re lazy.”
I am now fully committed to making mine the life of a writer, and A’s remark sits with me quite a lot of the time. All kidding aside, the fantasy was wrapped up in my dissatisfaction with the way life manifested for me in London…I was desperate to feel a bit more in-control of my livelihood and personal growth within my career, and I was far too drained to even look after myself properly, let alone pursue any creative endeavors. Deciding to pick up writing again happened quite by accident: I’d just started this blog with Chris when one of the organizations I volunteered with in the Philippines asked if I could help with some writing, which I was happy to do. Later, when Chris and I were looking for a way to extend our finances a bit so we could stay a full year in the Philippines, writing was really my only option.
Initially, I was so excited by even the prospect, it kept me awake with glee at night. As I continued to work on this blog and to take odd jobs on Elance, that excitement didn’t lessen; it felt so natural to be writing…reaching into the dankest pits of my memory searching for the right word, staying awake into the weest hours to meet a deadline, re-reading with pride a piece I’d finished and formatted before sending it off to the client. It felt right…it feels right.
But it isn’t romantic. I’ve just finished writing a 2,250 word critique of an English learner’s text using Systemic-Functional Linguistics. Since I knew nothing about SFL before agreeing to take this piece, I spent nearly 20 hours producing it…and it didn’t pay all that great. When I take into consideration the time I put into developing pitches and queries, researching magazines, and keeping up my admin costs, my hourly rate is – like most new freelancers – too pathetic to calculate. And poverty isn’t romantic. But I’m in love.
I’m in love with my work in a way I’ve never been before. I’m in love in the way young people fall in love with being in love…I’m filled with anticipation, ideas, and hope. I think constantly about it – even when I’m not thinking about writing, it’s all around me. Everything is a potential article. And I’m in love with it in the way that old couples love one another. I know this…I get this. I might not always be good at it, but the keys feel familiar to my fingers. Searching for the right word or the best way to form a thesis is like driving down the streets I grew up on, looking for the house of an old friend.
But it is only just the beginning…and a modest beginning at that. Writing has again become a part of me, but I haven’t yet figured out how to make it a lucrative part. Thankfully life has given me the right circumstances to really try this on for size. If I was sat there with A this moment, I’d laugh out loud at his remark just like I did that day. That was, indeed, a fantasy. But the reality is so much better.