I’m a writer. If you’ve followed this blog at all, you know that, but let me reiterate it: I’m a writer. That means it’s what I am. My job as a security guard (or whatever else I happen to do) is what I do to support myself.
Being a writer defines what I am.
For some people, that means being something else. A musician. A dancer. A symphony conductor. A gardener.
Sometimes the things that define us are hobbies. Sometimes, when you’re like my brother, you have more than one thing that defines you. He’s been a professional musician and he has his own contracting business because he loves building things from decks to furniture.
Back when I was in my twenties, I decided I wanted to be a musician. Music runs in my family, or so it seems. My maternal grandmother and her two sisters even had a book written about their musicianship (shameless plug: Singing in Zion: Music and Song in the Life of One Arkansas Family by Robert Cochran). Of course, they played bluegrass/traditional music, while I endeavored to be in a heavy metal band.
That dream slowly faded, though, for reasons I still don’t fully understand. I mean, I know why I decided being a drummer would be a hassle. Who wants to cart around one of those massive drum kits (and it has to be massive when you play heavy metal) if you don’t have a drum tech to do it for you? The other reasons, though, are more mysterious, but maybe they boil down to this: I didn’t really want to be a musician.
I have a passion for writing and perfecting the craft like I never had for being a musician. Sure, it’s not as glamorous as opening for The Rolling Stones (be sure to take wheelchairs or at least walkers if you get that gig), but that’s just fine. Means I get to stay home more.
I also have trouble believing that not everyone is interested in what goes on when writing a book (weird, huh?). Figuring out plot, crafting characters, adding in subplots, and all the other minutiae that goes into writing a book is endlessly fascinating to me. By discussing it with other writers, I’m improving my craft all the time. And it’s not arrogance that makes me that way. It’s just that I find it so interesting that it seems it should have universal appeal. And I’m also one of those guys who likes to know what goes on behind the scenes. The extras on a DVD can be as interesting as the movie for me, and sometimes they make me appreciate the movie more.
And that’s how I know it’s what I truly want to be.
It took me a while to fully realize what I wanted to do, though, in hindsight, I knew it when I was a teenager. I just let other things get in my way. I envy folks who know what their dream is from an early age. My daughter has been writing stories since she was in kindergarten (she told her first one to her mother, who wrote it down for her; she took over from there). How cool is that?
Others of us fumble around for a while before we figure things out, but once we do, look out.
And don’t think your dream has to involve you getting paid for it, either. Sometimes that can ruin your passion for it. I once knew a guy who loved to fish and entered into the professional fishing circuit. It quickly ruined him on fishing. He said it consists of pre-fishing a lake, then the tournament, then going on to the next one, day after day. It took something that was relaxing for him and turned it into hard work. And it wasn’t work he enjoyed.
Just because you like gardening doesn’t necessarily mean you should open up a landscaping company. The demands of running a business might kill off the joy you feel in your garden. So be careful what you do with your dream.
Whatever you do, whether you try to make your dream your vocation or not, never let it die. Very few things in life have equaled what it felt like the first time I held a copy of my debut novel in my hands, and I still sometimes look at a copy of it and wonder if it’s really mine.