Recently I wrote about various careers I’ve had and am still having, both accidental and on-purpose. My current sci-fi author career is so fledgling (exactly one published story) that any sensible person wouldn’t call it a career.
My dad says it’s my calling. Maybe it is. But I’m approaching it like a career, methodically and strategically. I write almost everyday, not just when I’m feeling inspired. Even though I have little to show for my efforts (so far), I can’t remember having this much fun trying to build something. At least not since the days I was sending out cassette-tape demos in padded mailers to NYC house music labels (and getting ignored). Or joining Trip ‘n Spin, a disorganized, fun-loving music label/collective in San Francisco.
It’s kinda fun being at the bottom. My friends and family (and maybe even some of you gentle readers) are genuinely rooting for me. A few might think I’m tilting at windmills, but not in a mean way (I may even inspire some to tilt at windmills of their own). I don’t have a professional reputation to protect, because I have no reputation in this field.
I listened to a podcast yesterday that resonated deeply. Heavyweight Episode #2 “Gregor” — listen for yourself.
[Spoiler Alert — next two paragraphs]
Gregor, in his late forties, feels that his greatest achievements may be behind him. He resents his peers who have had more visible, tangible career success. One of those people is Moby. The podcast producer arranges a meeting between the two men, childhood friends who have been estranged for decades.
Moby points out that everyone has peers that make them feel inadequate, either intentionally (Eminem dissing Moby — nobody listens to techno!) or unintentionally (for me it was DJ Shadow, who I slung pizza with in Davis, CA). Moby recounts a story of being at the apex of his career (winning awards, playing to huge crowds) and literally wanting to jump out the window of a luxury hotel (he had his own floor). Getting everything you want doesn’t make you happy.
Turning It Around
I used to feel how Gregor (and Moby) felt, that things were waning in my life. Around 2008, my music career wasn’t going anywhere, my programming work felt stagnant and boring, I lost half my net worth in the stock market crash, and I wasn’t sleeping much because we had a new baby (our first and only).
I climbed out of my midlife crisis, very gradually, by committing or recommitting to good things in my life (my family, my friends, making music, writing). I wrote my first novel (one that I will never attempt to publish, but that a few friends enjoyed reading). In 2009 I started this blog.
Getting serious about writing was an important part of getting rid of that waning feeling. Almost by definition, if you start in a new field, your best work is ahead of you. All you have to do is stick with it while constantly improving (persistment) while tolerating the complete lack of income or status from said efforts. For at least a couple years. Or decades.
But it’s fun. Waxing is better than waning. I get a real happiness hit every time I hit my daily word count, submit a story, complete a round of revisions, or do anything else to tangibly progress towards my new career goals. Somehow I’ve moved past my peak frustration into a different state. Which is not to say there won’t be frustrating, or even devastating, moments ahead.
But right now, I’m just enjoying the work, and getting better, and appreciating the enormous wealth in my life. And feeling more excited about the future than I can remember feeling in a very long time.