In The Myth of the Struggling Artist – Part I, I addressed the idea that to be a “good” writer, you must surround yourself with the right people, situate yourself in the right locations, and fully understand what it is you are doing and why. I feel that in order to produce the most honest and true work you possibly can, there has to be a balance between finding inspiration and motivation externally, and channeling your own, inner muse and motivating yourself based on your experiences and objectives.
From a young age, I was drawn to the romantic fantasy that is being a writer. I dreamed about being that stereotypical young, aspiring author, barely scraping by, and not giving a rats ass about responsibilities because I had my writing to fulfill me. When I got out into the real world however, I quickly realized that this fantasy-driven lifestyle was not for me. I am a Type A personality by nature and living by the seat of my pants, bouncing from day to day nonchalantly was not the life I wanted to live. I knew I needed to find a different way to satisfy and fulfill my life and my urge to write, and I did.
I ended up getting a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature, a decision I am extremely happy with. I studied what I was passionate about which fueled my passion further and gave me the motivation to pursue a career in writing. I was able to find a job in HR in which a vast majority of what I do is technical writing. Granted, not the fiction writing that feeds my soul, but I am able to put my major to good use and I am still writing, and sadly, not a lot of English majors can say that.
There are so many factors that tie into this lifestyle that many young (and not so young, for that matter) writers don’t think about when embarking on their journey of being the idyllic, Beat-era, vagabond writer. Taxes. Health Insurance. Bills (you know, those things you have to pay every month?). Retirement accounts and savings. Just to name a few, these are all important elements that should be considered when choosing this type of lifestyle. I read a fantastic article a while back that addresses this topic, and posed a number of questions that writers (or artists in general) should consider when making the important decision of “quitting their day job.”
Don’t get me wrong, if you are single, living on your own, and have no one dependent upon you for security, you can absolutely live whatever lifestyle you want. In fact, I envy that freedom. However, it is all a matter of balance. Being able to balance financial responsibilities, being able to successfully maintain friendships and romantic relationships, being able to commit to working from home, and possessing the self-control and time-management skills to work independently. All of which can be difficult elements to balance without isolating yourself and limiting your resources.
Some of my favorite authors worked until they received a nice fatty paycheck from their publisher and were able to quit their day job and write full-time. (Cheryl Strayed, Kate Morton, and Jeannette Walls, to name a few). Like myself, they worked to help support their families, and wrote in their free time. A responsible approach to writing I admire, these authors are the proof in the pudding that you don’t have to struggle and partake in the illusion to be successful.
I’ve been able to work full-time while balancing a successful part-time writing career on the side which has kept me balance and fulfilled. There are so many important elements of my life that I love, and I don’t feel that I should have to sacrifice any one of them to fit this cookie-cutter myth of what a successful writer “should” be like.
At the end of the day, every writer is different. Every individual is different and what works for one person won’t work for another. We need to make certain we respect and not judge fellow artists and colleagues for the work they do, whichever way they do it. You don’t have to agree with their process to respect their work. Every journey is different, and equally meaningful and beautiful.