Monday, March 19, 2012

Why Love Affairs are Bad for Writing (What I Want in a Writing Career)

First Glance
We met in 1984, during a family road trip to South Carolina. It began with a marbled notebook from school and an erasable blue pilot pen.

As our big brown box of a van bounced down the highway, I overheard my parents talking about a relative who’d passed and gone to heaven. Now, as the Amelia Bedilia of my family – the girl who thought all pencils originated from Pennsylvania – I took this “going to heaven” thing quite literally.

How had he gotten there? Plane, ladder?

I stared out at the clouds and an idea took shape. I opened my notebook and wrote my first short story, which my love-blinded parents raved about through the entire vacation. Until then, writing was pretty fun, but reading was my true love. In fact, when I got my first kiss in front of a silver phone booth at Hammonassett beach, one of my first thoughts wasn’t about how nice or “cute” or exciting Jeff was, but how this definitely had to be as good as Stacey’s first kiss in the Tunnel of Love in The Babysitter’s Club book #34.

Now I was hooked on writing, too. In many ways this relationship was – and still is – one of the most exciting, scary, uncertain yet constant ones I’ve ever had.

On Again, Off Again
By the time our Sassy magazine subscription started coming in eighth grade, I knew what my career would be. I imagined my name under those headlines. Could I someday become one of those amazing, witty people who came up with things like:  “Will we write the year two thousand as ’00?”  

But at some point the marble notebooks that held my stories and poems stopped being filled, and I became an insurance agent, an ESL teacher….intermittently submitting pieces and taking on writing gigs such as writing newsletters and working as a newspaper reporter.

Finally, I took the leap and jumped into freelancing full time, chasing my Holy Grail of writing:  glossy magazines. I was making ground and other people were taking notice. I got an article published in a national writer’s magazine.

Your piece is the perfect length, but more importantly, a humorous look at writing and how writers think,” said the editor.

“Now if only Sassy were still in print,” nodded the girl from 1984.

And then I got pregnant and had my beautiful, colicky, spirited daughter. Writing went the way of the diaper pail, and my career and blog hung suspended, untouched.


Waiting for me to realize, again, that I need this writing thing. Waiting for this post. And here I am, although at this point in my stalled career I wonder if I should rename ‘Kickstart’ to ‘Jumpstart’? Family and friends tell me not to worry about this blip, to just keep writing already and pick up where I left off. I've had a hard time with this. Somewhere along the way, trust was broken.

The Proposal
I recently read another writer's article that asked “Do you have a love affair with writing?” In other words, when the passion strikes – go for it. When things get tough, see ya later. Sounds obvious enough, but it wasn’t until I read that post that I understood what happened every time I took a writing gig and then dropped it, and was left with this angry nagging feeling. And now that I know, it’s time to end the love affair and get myself a wife (one husband’s enough, wouldn’t you agree?).

Today I find myself in an unusual spot. I’ve committed to writing, but there’s something about being a parent that shifts your priorities. Writing for national magazines isn’t what’s important anymore. The one goal I've based my entire writing life on is no longer a main goal. I now know with a certainty that’s restructuring my career and this entire blog, that “breaking in” and having national bylines doesn’t determine my worth as a writer, and it’s not the key to my success.  

What I want from my writing life is this (at the risk of sounding naïve and smelling like swiss cheese):
to write about the things I love, to share it with people who care, and build a career in the process.

And to start filling those notebook pages again.

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