If you were to offer my my dream job right now, this very instant, I could tell you in a heartbeat that I would love nothing more than to be able to make my livelihood through my writing. It is the single thing I have had unwavering confidence in and drive for since some of my earliest memories. And it’s not a whimsical ‘wouldn’t it be nice to write a book one day’ sort of longing.
I have written six books. Unpublished manuscripts which have travelled from floppy disc to harddrive to cloud. They have seen the transition from Word to Pages to Scrivener. Six completed manuscripts and three others near completion. Not to mention the dozen or so false-starts or germinating ideas ranging from a few paragraphs to several pages.
I am unquestionably driven to write and yet, I have only published on book and that wasn’t even a proper novel. It was a therapeutic project and a study in using InDesign. What better way to learn how to layout a book than laying out a book and publishing it?
So why am I writing this?
Life is what you make it. I don’t believe that anything happens for a reason. I believe that life has the meaning we give it and we can see opportunities anywhere we look, if we know how.
Yesterday I attended #AllAboutWomen at the Sydney Opera House. I went to a talk by Miranda July. My wife is a fan but for me, other than being familiar with the title of one of her films, she was a new entity.
My first instinct, as she began to share the story of her career, was jealousy. This, to me, is a great indicator to sit up and really pay attention. If I’m jealous it’s because they are emulating something I wish I had or could see in myself, so I focused on her talk with sharp intensity.
These are the key take-aways I found:
1. Learn to value our achievements more. Yes, it’s good to be motivated and to want to accomplish great things and complacency will prevent that from happening, but just because we want to do more doesn’t mean we should devalue what we’ve already done. In fact, by looking at what we’ve accomplished with a sense of pride and confidence, we fuel what we're doing right now.
2. Find what drives you. There have been many articles published on the problematic issue of telling people to ‘do what they love’, as if pursuing the things we love will magically make everything else fall into place.
Drive is different than loving something. For example, I love making things work. I love organising things, putting systems in place and establishing consistency. It’s what’s employed me in various project management roles for my entire adult life thus far. But I’m not driven by it. It’s not the sort of thing where I wake up every morning and think: What will I organise today?
When I wake up I wonder what I’ll write. I watch a TED talk and wonder about doing an article on it. I have a strange/upsetting/new/exciting/fun experience and I have to journal it. I attend a feminist event and plan to blog about it.
I am driven to write by my desire to engage people in their own curiosity. I love learning and I love to encourage others to explore the world around them.
When we are driven to something it’s harder to get in our own way.
3. Get really good at surviving failure. I don’t even think this one needs expanding on, it’s so self-explanatory, but I will say this: the quicker we accept a mistake the sooner we can learn from it and the better the next thing will be.
Not doing something because we’re afraid it won’t be great, or even at least sort of okay, is failure. So make terrible art and write something awful and come off as amateurish, because even the greatest professionals were once amateurs and no one gets it right all the time. Sometimes it will take several goes, but as long as you’re always going it doesn’t matter because that’s how we improve.
All of this is incredibly meaningful for me right now. On May 1st I’m launching a campaign through Publishizer to publish my first fiction novel. It’s 51,000 unedited words that need editing, publishing and marketing. My aim is to have it available in time for Christmas and I have no excuse not to work on it. This IS my livelihood even if it’s not earning me an income just yet. But I have confidence it will. Even if it’s not a best-seller (I’m not nearly so naive to hope for that) I have written something I am driven to share with the world - and share it I will.
I have all the time I am willing to make to put it out there and at this point not a single person who has read the first chapter has told me they wouldn’t pre-order. In fact, several people have told me they’ve been waiting for this since they met me - over fifteen years in some cases.
So, thank you Miranda. We haven’t met but I found your talk encouraging. Your career appears to be based on how to motivate people to perform. I happily credit you with this latest burst of energy and commitment for my current project.
When not writing, making art or recording podcasts,
Kaitlyn can be found in trees, listening to Dharma talks on her iPod, Boon.
Thusly named because
Brian Froud = Awesome.