Let’s face it. If you’re a creative and want your art to be your full-time career, you’ve likely gotten hesitant or even negative responses from people close to you.
But how will you make money?
It’s incredibly competitive; you’ll never make it.
That’s great but what else will you do?
Don’t you have a plan B?
When I made the decision to dust off my dreams of becoming an author a few months ago, I was scared to tell everyone around me. Especially my father.
From a young age, I knew that I wanted to write and make fiction writing my career. Perhaps it was the naivety of youth, but I was convinced I was going to make it. I didn’t have any doubts. Until someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up.
A journalist, I would say, even though at the time the thought of chasing down stories and interviewing people in loud crowds was terrifying. As an introvert, I can say that was not my dream job.
But my dream job didn’t feel socially acceptable to say out loud at the time.
My father is a hard-working man and he and my mom had me when they were fairly young. He has always believed in reward for perseverance and always encouraged me to follow my dreams.
But when those dreams were not climbing the corporate ladder, I felt guilty, seeing how hard he worked for us. Of course, he never said it out loud, but I could tell by his disapproving look when I said I was thinking of quitting my job at a corporate company to work for a small non-profit. (And I mean small, with a staff of 2 full-time people working out of their home). But I believed in the cause and I would get to work on creative projects, creating graphics and writing copy for articles.
My father was always one to hold two jobs, working a ton of hours for “the man” so that he could provide for us. That was never me. It’s not that I am opposed to hard work, in fact I accomplish most everything I set my mind to. But I hate the rat race. I hate office politics and having to be confined to a structure and schedule, with others constantly throwing you under the bus for the next promotion.
When funding ran out at that non-profit, I lost my job and barely had enough saved to cover my rent for the next month. I had to break my lease and move back home. While my parents were still supportive, there was a hint of “I told you so” behind my father’s eyes. It was painful and embarrassing.
I didn’t know what I was going to do next. The economy was still in the gutter and jobs were scarce. So I did what every new graduate did at the time— I applied for graduate school.
While waiting for a response from the universities I applied to, I got the opportunity to spend 3 months in Germany, nannying for a family friend who traveled a lot and needed someone to watch her son while she was away.
With little money left to my name, I got on a plane to Germany. Those three months changed me in so many ways.
I had studied German for years, so I was familiar with the language and was able to navigate around easily. I felt liberated for the first time. I could go where I wanted, do what I wanted, and met some incredible people I will never forget that have even inspired characters in my stories. I earned just enough to buy some beer and a pretzel every now and then, but it didn’t matter. I was totally and completely free.
When I came home, I told my father I wanted to work abroad at a bed and breakfast and travel the world.
“But how will you make money?” He asked.
Full of exuberance and slightly jet-lagged, I answered: “Bartending!”
(Note: Not the correct response.)
I had three acceptance letters to great universities for graduate school, one with a scholarship that covered the entire first year. And I wanted to throw it all away to go live abroad in a hotel serving people their breakfast and slinging drinks at night.
Needless to say, I did not go back to Europe and become a bartender.
I went to graduate school. I got a “real” full-time job and have been doing the daily grind for the last 4 years with just enough salary to live paycheck to paycheck.
And for what? Constant anxiety and mild depression. Feeling unfulfilled.
What I didn’t realize was that while I had put my dreams on the back burner, put my head down and tried to do what society expected of me, the world of publishing changed and so many opportunities opened up.
Self-publishing was no longer a dirty word in the industry. Podcasts exploded. E-readers changed the way people consume literature. Indies have over 50% of the market share on Amazon. Achieving my dream doesn’t seem impossible now.
So much has happened over the last 4 years since I came home from Germany, and it seems I keep hitting road blocks everywhere I turn. But for the first time, I see a path. The one I need to follow.
The other day my father came over to take a look at my car’s brakes and to fix my broken sliding door. (Because lets face it, I’ll always need my dad to help me adult.)
“Is work getting any better?” He asked. He knew I was miserable.
“You know dad, I am going to write a fiction book and publish it. I have a plan. Within the next 3 years, this will be my full-time job.”
He looked at me and said “I have no doubt you will. You have always been the creative type.”