Reader QUIT: Second-Guessing the Path I’m Meant to Follow (by Brooke Law)

Starting Out

My mom tells stories of when I first learned to write, how she spent hours and hours on the basement carpet with me, dotting out my name and our address over and over so I could trace the letters.  For some reason I didn’t like using those learn-to-write books; I wanted her to do it.  And she complied.  For hours.  (Thanks, Mom!)

Then I progressed to writing stories.  I had a PlaySkool desk in my own little nook with papers and pencils and crayons, and I spent hours in my own little world, writing and drawing happily.  In high school and even college, where I majored in English, I still wrote stories and reveled in my creative time.

But somewhere along the way I ingested society’s expectations of me as a “functioning” individual.

 

Clearly I’m Supposed To…Get a 9-5 Job

I got it into my head that becoming a writer wasn’t a “real” job that someone like me could actually do.  I don’t know what I thought a “real” job was.  It’s not like I came from a traditional working family of any kind—at the time my dad was driving limos, which he thought was the greatest job in the world, and my mom was a Pilates teacher.  I seemed to think I needed to work forty hours a week to be a real adult, even though neither of my parents had worked 9-5 since I’d been born.

After I graduated from college I did what all liberal arts majors unsure of their futures do: I got a job at Starbucks.  I came home with an elbow aching from pouring a million lattes.  Then I’d change my clothes, go to another Starbucks store and drink reduced-price coffee and pound away at a novel on my laptop.

 

Tell People My Dreams?  No Way

Even then, I never seriously thought of myself as a writer.  I didn’t tell anyone I was writing a novel, except my closest friends.  I cringed if my parents mentioned it to aunts or uncles or cousins.  I wasn’t sure it was any good, and I didn’t even know if I’d ever finish it

I was so unsure of my skills that I couldn’t bring myself to invest fully in what I was so passionate about.  I loved writing so much that I was afraid to admit it even to myself, afraid of shining a light on what I was sure would be a lack of talent.

This makes me mad on my own behalf now, like I’d be mad if someone was insulting a friend of mine.  Who was I to talk so negatively to myself?  Who was I to put myself down?

 

You Can’t Live the Life You Want Until You Imagine It

 

I recently spent a lot of time at a job I hated, which forced me to dream of a life I’d love.  And I imagined life as a writer.  So, readers, I QUIT second-guessing myself, and I quit being half-ashamed of my passion for writing. (On a side note, I really like that “quit” is both present and past tense, because this was both a conscious choice at one moment in time and also an ongoing quitting battle.)

Even once I decided to pursue an MFA degree this past fall, I was hesitant about telling others. Would they think I was crazy for sinking so much money into such a seemingly impractical degree?  Would they think I was foolish or wasting my time?

I experimented.  I told a few people, then a few more.  Mostly I was greeted with enthusiasm and congratulations.  Every now and then I still get a raised eyebrow or two, and I realize that I don’t care much about those people’s opinions, anyway.

 

No More Hiding

The amazing thing is, once I fully committed to my writing, and worked on it every day, I faced both my fear of not being a good enough writer (through practice) and my fear of telling people I’m a writer.   I want to publish the novel I’m writing as part of my MFA studies, which involves the same characters I invented several years ago in that Starbucks.  I love spending time with my characters, like they’re friends of mine.  In order to live a congruent life, I’m committed to sharing my passions with others.

Every time I get my tuition bill in the mail, or read a really awesome book, I doubt again.  I doubt that I have what it takes.  But it requires just a little positive self-talk to bring myself off the ledge.  That and a good hour of writing, which I do almost every morning.

Every time I let go of another doubt or fear I get another little thrill, because I know I’m following the path I’m meant to walk.

 

Brooke Law is pursuing her MFA degree through Fairfield University’s low residency program and is currently working on a novel.  She writes about her favorite books at Books Distilled, which is a TLC Book Tour featured blog.  She lives with her husband in Long Island, NY. Follow Brooke on TWITTER!

 

 

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  • 🙂 Love this post, Brooke! It’s got me fired up & inspired to meet with my very first support planning client today.
    Also, I love that your mom made you dot-sheets! (It’s very Johnny Schofield!)
    Again, thank you for this.
    PS ~ Major points for the Hyperbole & A Half shoutout 😉

    • Thanks so much, Cari! I know, I always thought of my mom when Johnny was doing his ‘tarea.’ Hilarious

  • I can relate to this quit so very, very much.  Even though I blog regularly, am working on an ebook, dabble in Novel drafting, I still tell myself that I’m not “really” a writer.  Why?  Because I’m not (physically) published anywhere?  Because I don’t make any money from it (yet)?

    This post is a great reminder that your dreams are your dreams, no matter how “practical” or  profitable they are.  Definitely a reminder I can use on a daily basis!

  • Hey Brooke. I relate so much to this post! I just got back from a writers’ retreat in upstate New York, and on Saturday afternoon a few of the other writers started talking about this very subject. One of the most accomplished people there says she struggles all the time with the fact that she quit a day job to write and start up a publishing house. It’s a choice she makes every day. Same thing for me.

    Great post. See you in a few weeks at Enders. Cordelia, you should come visit us all at residency. We can surround you with writers and chant “write your novel, write your novel” or something. No. Actually, that’s creepy.

    • Creepy, but no doubt effective. And I can’t think of a better thing than to be surrounded by writers. When should I show up? 😀

      • You should! We have a free day and I think we have a visitor day as well. I’ll check our schedule. If you really want to visit, I will check the dates and email you. 

        • I *do* really want to visit; unfortunately, unless you’re within driving distance of the greater Buffalo area, I’m afraid I can’t afford the commute. Unless you have scholarships for visitors? I can write a kick-ass application essay. 😀

          • We are in Mystic, Conn. Within driving distance, but kind of a long haul.

    • I love this whole string of messages! Definitely, Cordelia, if you can ever make it down to CT in July or January, come hang out with us.  It’s definitely a really encouraging writing atmosphere.

  • Cordelia’s Mom

    Started to read the latest Cordelia blog and of course, I started at the text, not the title, so I didn’t realize it was actually not Cordelia’s own post.  While reading the first paragraph, about learning to write while Mom sits on the carpet, I thought, well I don’t remember doing that, but then I’m really getting old so who knows, and I don’t remember [Cordelia] ever having a Playskool desk, so maybe she’s elaborating just a bit.  Then the paragraph came about Dad driving limos and Mom teaching Pilates, and I thought, holy shit, [Cordelia]’s totally lost her mind!  At that point, it occurred to me to look at the author line and realized it was someone else!  Thank God.
    PS:  It was a great post, however!

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