Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Why I'm A Writer & Not a Fighter Pilot

I know what it means to manage my time, but my question is how do you know your goals?

When i read your blog i always have the feeling that you kept the invincibility of youth, that there's nothing that can come between you and your dreams, so how did you keep that?

I am finally an adult (or am supposed to be one...) and so many people tell me what is right or wrong that i'm not sure about my goals anymore and i slowly feel how this feeling of doing the right thing slips through my fingers. How did you keep true to yourself when i bet there where times when people disagreed with your dreams and goals?



This is a reader question on the blog post from last week, and I thought it was a really good one, so I asked if I could blog about it this week. I’m going to answer in reverse order, if that’s okay. And if it’s not, you can read the post backward.

How did you keep true to yourself when i bet there where times when people disagreed with your dreams and goals?

This one, actually, I’ve already answered here. Actually, and sort of here. Both of those posts sort of boil down to “ignore other people because their opinions don’t matter” which sounds terrible and is a gross over-simplification, but is a good starting point.

When i read your blog i always have the feeling that you kept the invincibility of youth, that there's nothing that can come between you and your dreams, so how did you keep that?

Why thanks. I kept it because I decided to keep it. I believe we only go round this lifetime once, and I believe in getting to the end of that lifetime with no regrets. I think the saddest story ever is the one that starts “this is what could’ve happened.” The story that involves settling for just okay instead of great. The story that ends up with you reminiscing about the past instead of looking to the future.

I’m depressing myself.

As far as things coming between me and my dreams, that’s true. I don’t think there’s too many things that can possibly do that. I mean, I know there are lots of obstacles out there, but I also think I’m stronger or at least more stubborn than any of them.

A big hurdle, for lots of people, is money. I realize lots of people have a much lower risk threshold than I do, but I would pretty much always rather sacrifice monetary security when it comes to having the life I’ve dreamed about. Money is . . . it’s just money. I walked out of my only legitimate post-college job to become a portrait artist, because it was just time to start trying for the life I wanted. As someone who lived not just a shoestring, but on the thread of a shoestring while getting my art business underway, I assure you that you need far less of this thing called money than you think you do. Whether or not you’re willing to give up cable and square footage and red meat in your diet in exchange for pursuing your goals is another question entirely.

I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again. I respect people who have made their dreams come true. But I have just as much respect for people who are trying to make their dreams come true. It’s about the journey. And I think that seeking is the key to keeping that indefatigable dreaminess of youth.

I know what it means to manage my time, but my question is how do you know your goals?


Here is a short list of things I thought I wanted to do when I was younger:

- fighter pilot
- trial lawyer
- radio DJ
- comedian
- show jumper
- soundtrack composer
- rose hybridizer
- cartoonist
- 2D animator
- rally car driver
- screenwriter
- children’s book illustrator
- pastry chef
- history professor
- archeologist
- Robert Bruce fangirl

I used to tell people I felt lucky because I always knew what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I’ve come to understand from my teen journals that this is only the beauty of hindsight speaking. In reality, I basically wanted to do everything, and I had long, agonizing brainstorming sessions where I wondered how I could possibly be, for instance, both an animator AND a fighter pilot. I could’ve made any of the things on that list the goal for my life. But I settled on writing. Not just writing, but novel writing, and not just novel writing, but commercial fiction writing.

How did I narrow it down?

All of my career goals up there scratched some sort of itch of mine: how I wanted to be remembered after I was gone. How I wanted to see myself. How I wanted to look at the world. How I wanted to spend my day. How I wanted people to view me at cocktail parties. How I was most content. What I was most willing to happily devote years to improving at.

Many of the things on those list still satisfy one or more of the conditions above. But writing is the only thing that satisfies all of them. After I’m gone, I want people to have known me as a writer. I want to see myself as someone who finds stories everywhere. I want to look at the world through the lens of character arcs. I want every day to be different and unpredictable: some days writing, some days researching, some days touring, some days doing things I could’ve never imagined. I want to shift people’s lives in tiny ways through my stories; convince them that they’re all heroes too and make them look at nature and magic in a different way. I love to write, I love to get better at it, and I love that it really lets me do everything else on that list too, if I really want to. I never get tired of the work aspect of it. 

We have dreams for lots of reasons, but we don't have every dream for every reason. Once you narrow it down to one that fulfills everything you want, your real dream should be obvious. And then you just have to make it happen.

Discuss?
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