The following is a reflection of my writing journey as I teach full-time at a job I adore, have a family, and am a frustrated painter/illustrator. This year’s been a bumpy ride and I’ve had to make some hard decisions in terms of my writing. If you struggle and wonder why you bother writing at all, maybe we can commiserate together.
What Have You Done?
I celebrate Christmas and I don’t assume that, if you’re reading this, you do, as well. Regardless, this song comes up a lot this time of year.
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun …John Lennon, Yoko Ono
When this song comes on, I’ve developed a habit of mumbling, Don’t judge me, John Lennon. Why? Because the year is ending, and what have I done? As a person with a high-performing personality, in the past, this what-have-you-done business cut me deep. I measured my own worth by what I had accomplished on my writing journey. How many books did I write? Did I submit enough articles? How many books did I sell?
This year, I feel differently and here’s why …
The Infinite Game
I had the privilege of seeing Simon Sinek speak. If you haven’t seen his Ted Talk, The Infinite Game, you can see the full version here. For a shorter taste of what it’s about, click here. Sinek’s ethos forced me to see my writing career differently. It’s not about winning (i.e. how many books did I write/sell), it’s more about the long-game. But what does it mean to be a fiction writer?
I realized that there are better questions I should be asking myself. Questions like: Did I make the world a better place? Am I happy and fulfilled as a writer? Am I willing to blow things up to move forward?
That last question was one of my favorites. As an extremist, I like blowing things up. I’m an all or nothing kind of gal. So, in true form, this year I decided to blow things up. I quit writing. Since I’m writing this article for you, you can correctly surmise that my explosive plan did not come to fruition.
Burning the Right Boats
After announcing to my writer friends that I would be staying onshore as they sailed off on their own new writing journeys, something unexpected happen–they said no. I had to get back on the boat, end of story. I was shocked. Why couldn’t they be happy for me? I was fulfilling my dream to paint and teach without the distraction of writing. They said I wasn’t done writing. I was being foolish and needed to get back to work. Get on the boat, Rigney.
That hit me hard and, after some serious soul-searching, I realized I burned the wrong boat. The boat that really needed a torch held all my aspirations of fame and fortune. And so I set it on fire. I realized that I had lost sight of why I had started writing in the first place.
The True Meaning of a Writing Journey (for me)
When I wrote my first story, it represented joy, entertainment, reflection, and a place of release for emotions I could not decipher. I wrote for myself. Not for an audience. Somewhere, in all the hoopla of publication and promotion, I lost sight of that.
This sounds like a cliché, and I would agree with you. You’re probably nodding and sarcastically thinking, yeah, it’s all about the idea, not the money–what a steaming pile. But are you happy? Does writing fulfill you? Seriously. Think about that.
Going Forward with a Better Plan
So here at the end of my 2019 writing journey, I came to the conclusion that I needed to make a better writing plan. Now that I teach during the school year, I don’t have time to write like I once did when I wrote full-time. Therefore, I need to make better, more detailed outlines for my non-teaching time-periods.
In terms of my writing friends, I realize that I enjoy traveling with them to various comic cons to sell books. As I reflect on this, I realize now, that being on a journey with them is more fun than making big sales. We have such a good time together and I am so blessed to have these adventures with such wonderful people.
I’ve also learned that I enjoy writing about my life experiences, not because I think it’s marketable, but because I enjoy documenting the more comedic aspects of my upbringing. For example, my parents held parties where a turkey was roasted and we children would ram our bikes into towers of metal folding chairs while drunk adults threw turkey bones at us.
Wouldn’t it be a shame if that strange nugget of truth slipped into the void of time without documentation? I think so, and I’m glad I have friends who refused to let me quit this writing journey. Here’s to another year of words, laughter, and joy.