I ran across this article the other day:
My first thought was, “Great! Advice from ‘real’ authors.” Then I showed it to my friend and social media queen Michelle. Her first reaction to the opening paragraph derailed my train of thought and knocked some sense into me. After a bit of reflection, I can really see her point.
…having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.
What is an artist? It’s someone who writes, paints, draws, sings, or any other form of self-expression. True, not everyone can/will make a living with their art, but does that make them less worthy of the title of Artist? No. However, society has instilled in us an idea that in order to be successful, we must achieve a certain status, usually financially defined.
Well, I am here to say I AM AN ARTIST. I AM AN AUTHOR. I write because I love to do it. I love the entire process. Stressing over plot points. Arguing with characters when they don’t want to behave. Deadlines sneaking up on you. Formatting. Editing. Cover design. And the list goes on… I AM a REAL author.
So much of the various art forms are subjective. When you look at paintings, do you prefer realism, cubism, or abstract? I am sure several of you answered that differently than I did. There are a ton of famous artists whose work I wouldn’t want hanging in my house. I can appreciate them for their appeal – to someone else. The same can be said for different forms of writing. I detest horror and gore, but I love mysteries. I don’t enjoy historical romance, but love paranormal romance. And just as before, I am sure some of you disagree.
All of that being said, the advice in the post does give me food for thought. Here is my favorite of the list:
When I finished reading this, I reflected back on my post from a few weeks ago: Passion…or Happiness? Since I wrote that, I have been following Mark Manson’s blog and ran across a few more that have inspired me or made me think. The first was on life purpose (http://markmanson.net/life-purpose) and the second was on dreams (http://markmanson.net/dreams).
What is life purpose? That is an interesting question and one I think has a different meaning to different generations. One of the things that I have noticed over the past few years while working in higher education is that the newer generation doesn’t go into a career thinking in terms of forever. Stop and think about that for a second. Your grandparents and parents went to college or trained for a specific job with the full expectation that they would be doing that until they retired. Plumber, electrician, attorney, teacher, on and on and on. They wanted the security that came along with longevity. College students today have multiple ideas of what they want to do. And they aren’t afraid of thinking that ten years down the road they will be changing professions.
Our parents and the generations before had mid-life crises when they reached the point of burnout. But even then it wasn’t their job that they considered changing. Think about all the clichés you hear: affairs, divorce, sports cars, etc. The newer generations don’t put pressure on themselves to make life-long decisions at the age of 18. That can be scary, or it can be incredibly freeing.
I have seen a larger number of non-traditional students coming back for different degrees. These people are of my generation. Those of us that were raised with the idea that we needed to find a career and stick to it. But we have also grown up with technology and a world that has, and is, changing more than it ever has before. We are now reaching our mid-30s and 40s and realizing we are no longer happy doing what we chose to do at 18. But unlike our parents, we take inspiration from our children. We fall back on the idea that education can take you far and we use that to move forward. We take action to change what no longer makes us happy.
What most people don’t understand is that passion is
the result of action, not the cause of it.
Discovering what you’re passionate about in life
and what matters to you is a full-contact sport,
a trial-and-error process.
None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity
until we actually do the activity.
Do you see how passion and life-purpose go hand-in-hand? It’s impossible to reconceptualize (yes, David Ogilvy, I used the word you said not to use…) your purpose in life without knowing what you are passionate about.
When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are. And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.
I have been dealing with this over the past several months as I reevaluate my career. I took a huge leap back in June and completely changed career paths. Last year, I also started publishing what I write. Whew! Do you know how nerve wracking that was? When I first started thinking of publishing, I thought I would use a pseudonym – something so no one would know I was the author. I don’t write erotica. I write mysteries and romantic suspense (and surprisingly paranormal romance). I don’t write anything that I would be embarrassed for my mother to read…though the first Tip of the Spear book did make me blush when she read it.
What I discovered was that I was embarrassed about what people would think – of me, of my books, of my beliefs and values, of everything. How would people I have known for years react to my books? Ultimately, having a built in network to start promoting my books is what swayed me to use my own name. Imagine what I felt when I read this:
But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says.
Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.
And every word of that is true. I am passionate about what I write. I still care what others think, but not enough to stop me from pursuing what I enjoy. I am doing what I love. This is my passion. This is my dream.
So when should you pursue your dreams? Again, I refer to Mark Manson:
Working in finance, I always jokingly tell people, “If your idea of saving for retirement is secretly hoping to win the lottery before you hit 65, there is a problem.” The same can be said for whatever dream you want to pursue. Writers always talk about the massive pile of rejection letters they received before ‘hitting it big’. And all of them will follow that by saying how it inspired them to push even harder. When you face obstacles, it is human nature to try harder – if you are truly passionate about what you are doing. It makes us appreciate what we have more than if it was just handed to us.
“When all of your wishes are granted,
many of your dreams will be destroyed.”
What does all of this mean to me? I love writing. I love being an author. Is it difficult? Yes. Is it draining? Yes. Is it rewarding? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. I’m proud of what I have accomplished so far and I plan to continue to do it as long as I’m able. I am not defining my success by how much money I am making. My success depends on how I feel about the finished product, the reaction of my readers, and the satisfaction I feel if even one person says they loved what I wrote. That makes me happy. That drives me to continue.
So here is my advice to you: If you want to be a writer, write – even if it’s just in your journal. If you want to be a painter, paint – even if it’s just a piece you hang on your wall. If you want to be a singer, sing – even if it’s just in the shower. And, if you are willing to put in the hard work and follow the process, give it a shot.