I owe a big thank-you to my friend Shannon. She follows my blog and sent me an e-mail yesterday asking me where the heck I have been. That was just the nudge I needed. Somehow, since I came back from visiting relatives over Thanksgiving I have been unable to get back into any of the rhythms I had developed before. I'm not only not writing in my blog, but I haven't been doing my morning journal, either. About all I have been doing, in fact, is applying online for jobs I don't really want.
Cliche as it sounds, I think I am partly the victim of a fear of failure. Let me tell you how I got to this point.
When I was a kid, writing came as naturally to me as breathing. It was clearly my calling, but in college I decided I wanted the life of a briefcase and a commute and a big office and what appeared then to be security. So I turned my back on writing except as a supporting skill and earned degrees that led me into business.
Life kept pulling me back to writing. When I graduated with a Masters degree in Economics, I followed my (then) husband to a small rural community. The first job I was able to get was as a radio copywriter. The job literally sought me out. From there, I transitioned into a marketing job at a bank, which felt more like the business thing I so wanted. But the fact that I could write well was always what gave me an edge.
So I followed the "career path" for about 15 years. Somewhere along in there, I had a baby and began to be aware of a tension between the values I wanted to live out for him, and the pressures of putting career first. For the last seven or so years, I have been trying to find work that on the one hand built on those skills I acquired earlier in my life, but on the other hand allowed a lifestyle more consistent with what I want now. I moved to the not-for-profit world.
But now, I find myself unemployed and realizing that in a perfect world, I'd rather not work in a 9 to 5 setting at all. I'd like to work from home, for myself, managing my time based upon the demands of the work and never again having to play politics or be there just because of "face time". So I'm looking back at the opportunity I walked away from as a young adult, thinking, "Hmm, maybe I should try to earn a living as a writer. I could be my own boss that way, and do work that I find meaningful."
So here's the rub: after about 30 years of thinking of writing as my fallback position, as something I walked away from but could always return to, I think I am really scared to fail. If, after all this, it turns out I can't do it, what's left?
Like so many people in our world, my whole self-worth is tied up in my job. I really liked the identity of being a business executive. Truth be told, even though I don't miss the work at all, I miss that identity. I felt important then. Working in non-profits was more fun, but I didn't feel as much ego gratification. Then losing a job at a non-profit was a real kick in the ego! Now, if it turns out after all this time that my writing isn't really that good, either, that no one is out there just dying to pay for my beautifully written prose, then what's left? I'm just an unemployed middle-aged nobody. Ouch!
In the end, money may be the driving force. Without my income, our family budget is pinched. If I don't start generating some money with writing soon, the whole emotional side of it won't matter. I will have to go take a day job. Even now, I've reached the point that if one came along that looked pretty well within acceptable parameters, I'd take it. I have college tuition coming up in a few years, and I owe it to my son to be responsible. But I'm not yet to the point where I'll take just anything, and I know I should be using whatever few precious months I have here to really give the writing my best shot.
So this blog entry is step one in shaking off the fear. This afternoon, I'm going to research some magazine titles to try to determine where my writing would be a good fit, and then I'll put together some queries. Then, we'll have to figure out what makes sense as a next step.
Thanks, Shannon, for the kick in the seat. You helped me more than you know!