So here’s the thing:
I’ve recently departed from my corporate job – what I hope will be the last corporate job I’ll ever hold – and have gone freelance. That’s right, just me, scribbling and drawing away in my sunny office for however many hours a day, striving to earn my
bread organic corn tortillas by the sweat of my brow.
Clearly, I have lost my mind.
Not really, of course. There’s something to be said for the pursuit of one’s dreams, and I’m in a somewhat secure position to do so – no dependents, no mortgage, no serious ties to anything that would otherwise shackle me.
Aaaaand…I just realized that I am ALSO perfectly suited to become a hobo. Lovely.
This has been a strange journey for me. I have five novels that are in various stages of completion. I have sheaves of poems that have gone unsubmitted because I haven’t (as yet) had time to really polish and deburr them. I have, if one can believe it, a series of seven children’s books that haven’t made it past the outline stage. I have a second job – Gay Issues Examiner for Dayton – that I have WOEFULLY neglected.
Why? Because of time, or rather, FREE time.
I don’t know about you, but my creative process is decidedly outside the Kurt Vonnegut vein (which, now that I think about it, a story set inside Kurt Vonnegut’s veins would be right up his alley. But I digress.), which is to say that I am not the sort who can hammer away relentlessly at a single page until it is ready to be set and published right then and there, sans edits.
My creative process goes something like this:
1) Sit down with my idea journal, some pens, a stack of paper and giant mug of tea.
2) Pick an idea and start brainstorming/sketching.
3) Work through 78 iterations of whatever it is I’m toying with until my brain notices some other fascinating bit of trivia or makes its 1,000th random association, and, just for fun, begin fleshing out THAT idea.
4) Begin writing/illustrating/whatever and zone out until my hands stop working or I fall into a coma from eraser dust.
5) Wake up and realize I have started a really great story that has NOTHING TO DO with what I started writing earlier.
6) (and this is the critical flaw, really) Called away by something irritating like a job (or something less irritating, like school) for ten hours, I try to hold onto as much of the magic as I can while shoving my daily stone up the Sisyphean hill of commercial enterprise or scholastic toil. However, since both of these tasks require my brain to be fully engaged, the fairy dust blows away in the wind.
7) Come home and discover that, like a vacationer from Atlantis who missed her boat, I can’t find my way back to where I need to be.
8 ) Add the story to the pile, promising to “get back to it” when I have the time necessary to devote to it (i.e., NEVER).
Now, obviously I don’t consider all of life to be a giant distraction.* But the truth is, I work best when I can work, take a brief break to clear out the works, maybe have a meal, maybe take a hike, and then go back to it.
So really, what I’ve lacked to this point is not time, which of course is available to even the busiest modern American in heaps, but CONTINUOUS TIME to work on what (in my opinion) I SHOULD be working on, rather than simply spinning the hamster wheel all damn day and then trying to use a tired brain and a tired body to create something meaningful.
Fie on that, as the kids say.**
And yet, it is with no little trepidation that I embark on this endeavor; after all, how many failed writers are out there asking “Would you like fries with that?” And, naturally, there is a marked absence of all the things that accompany a nine-to-five job: office gossip; a steady paycheck; insurance that covers more than bug-bites and paper-cuts; hanging out with people who can empathize with your frustrations because they’re not only sharing the same carpet, they’re sharing the same daily battle against corporate nonsense.
These are all things that I’m sure to miss at some point (particularly the insurance bit…as some of you know, I am “Accident Prone,” in the same way Dean Martin was a “Social Drinker”), but taking this leap of faith (without Harrison Ford to throw sand on the path, even!) has made me realize that I just might – scratch that, I DO – have the strength of will and imagination to not only chase my dream, but run it to the ground, capture it, and then show it in New York city while feeling conflicted.
No, wait, that’s King Kong.
I’m a writer. It’s the thing I can’t stop doing. Just like Matthew McCan’tActy is unable to stop being a douchebag, or Robin Meade is unable to stop being hot, I am driven – nay, compelled – to write. There comes a point in everyone’s life, I think, where they recognize the fundamental truth about their “job.” Not their put-on-some-Dockers, make-small-talk-while-toiling-for-minor-ducats job, but their PURPOSE, their raison d’etre.***
Having found mine, I intend to see it fulfilled. And if I fail, well, who knows? Maybe the hoboes need a new queen.
* Just most of it. ** I'm not sure which kids. They're probably time travelers. Just sayin'. *** Yes, I'm really this pretentious. Horrible, isn't it?