I've had something bouncing around in my head, and I think I might more easily digest it if I can write it out.
I've written already about the "Self-Loathing Fire" I use to motivate myself, and I've engaged in many online discussions on the practicality of finding success as a writer. We all know that it's possible, but more often than not we remember the voices of reproachful parents and teachers and we echo their words, when they told us that writing could be a "fun hobby" but that it was a silly thing to pursue as a career. Sometimes the only way I can get a single word on the page is to imagine a day when I'm so famous a writer that I get stopped on the street, and more often I think about a life wherein I don't write at all, where I've given it up, and the despair found there is enough to get me typing away.
Recently though, I was listening to Without a Paddle by Nick Offerman (I love that guy, and was surprised to find that he writes some delectable books), wherein he traces the path from childhood to success as the lauded Ron Swanson and all his other ventures, and there was a chapter that I just can't stop rolling around my thinkin' bucket (as he might say). He paints the picture of a day where he has married a famous actress, and I believe a decent amount of work in film and TV, at least enough to have been at a place of success, and he realizes that he's made it to a place, after struggling for many years, where he can put on some Neil Diamond and roast a bowl of the good green stuff in his pool, lay back on a floaty, and just bask. Pretty quickly, though, I want to say it was before a third song had played over the outdoor speakers, he finds that basking isn't really his bag. Not only is this endearing, and fitting with the man that you come to know throughout the book, but I think I found it enlightening. I say "I think" because it's still bouncing around my head. I think I've come to at least one conclusion with regard to that trait that he describes, of eschewing a good bask and returning his nose to the grindstone.
I want that.
Not only is that the philosophy I want to have, but I think it might be the only one that might promise real success in this vocation. In this chapter he goes on to describe how he found the most success in his work, and more importantly the most satisfaction, when he found happiness in his personal life that was not conditional upon his success in his chosen trade. Like so many others, I think I would have placed this at the end of a spectrum, let's say the complacent left, as opposed to the very number-obsessed, sales-crazy right that will only be satisfied when a multi-movie deal has been signed based on a New York Times Bestselling work.
But I think (that it should be alright to begin a sentence with a conjunction, and also that) this idea isn't at the end of the spectrum. That complacent end is the home of the hobbyist who refuses to even entertain the idea of making a living as a writer. The writer who is happy just to be doing the work, regardless of the success it brings, is the happy medium. That's where I really want to be. I go there sometimes, when I'm in the throes of a good chapter, pounding away at the keyboard, when there could be nothing better than transcribing the actions of the characters I have spent so much time shaping and giving life to, but surely I pass through that place to one end of the spectrum, when I am sure that my books will only ever be a conversation-starter when someone sees them on the shelf, or I slide to the other side when I count my sales and wonder what I can do to bolster the SEO of my website.
I want to live there. I want to live in that place, where I am happy to plod along everyday, doing the work as if it doesn't matter whether the book sells, but motivated to get it out there once it's finished and make an honest effort to actually sell it, but without the pressure of its success having an effect on whether or not I start the next work. I want to achieve the zen described so adroitly in that book my Mr. Offerman; I want to sit back in my pool for a minute, before rushing out mid-song because I need so badly to get back to the work.
I want the writing to come first, and my passion for it to be completely independent of any financial success. Maybe this sounds ridiculous, or obvious, or neurotic, but I'm doing my best to pin down this idea that's given me such comfort with words. I feel a little like the guy who pops up out of nowhere to say that he just got the joke that everyone else stopped laughing at twenty minutes ago.
I've wrestled with the idea that I want this to be a career, and I know that I do. I want to keep loving to do the work, and I don't see that changing. But I guess it's taken me until now to see the forest for the trees, to put this into the context of my whole life. I just want to be happy. Writing is one of the best parts of my life, but it can also be a source of the greatest stress. I don't want it to be. I want it to be something that gives me nothing but joy, and to keep me happy whether I ever amass a following or not.
I apologize if you're reading this and it sounds like some obnoxious pontificating, but I'm just doing my best to untangle my own thoughts here, man.