I need a break. Currently I have three stories cooking for you, and none of them are behaving themselves. This means either that there aren’t really any stories there, or that I am trying to force them to do something that they don’t want to do. Either way, it just ain’t happening, so I’ve come up zeroes for this week’s memoir piece.
The timing for my little mini-vacation isn’t too bad, though. Why It Matters turns four years-old this week, so a couple of days of laurel resting seem in order. Over that four years I’ve posted 1,000 pieces on WIM, almost 200 of which are creative non-fiction. I’ve lost track of the word count on those memoir pieces, but it’s a lot.
What do they add up to artistically? I have no idea. When I started writing them the idea was to treat these little stories like sketches, and then at some point go back and rework them into a single narrative. That’s still a possibility, but it seems less likely all the time.
Over the last year my emphasis has been more on paid work. My current deals with Diffuser.FM and Paste are both a lot of fun and a tremendous challenge. Writing three pieces minimum per week for Diffuser takes a lot of my time and mental energy, and I fear that Why It Matters suffers as a result. It’s a great problem to have.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Mark Twain over the last couple of weeks. Twain once advised aspiring writers to work for free for three years, and if at the end of that apprenticeship they still can’t find anyone willing to pay go find another line of work. I’m startled by how accurate his timeline was in my case: I was right at the three year mark when paying gigs started rolling in.
I’m also a bit startled by the change in my mindset since starting WIM. Articulating that change is a bit of a challenge, but the gist is that it’s much easier for me to delineate who around me is building a career and who is a hobbyist, and thus it’s easier to assess myself in that manner, too. This is neither judgement nor criticism, just observation.
I think what I’ve realized is that I have far less talent than many, but simply by keeping my hands moving consistently for the last four years I’m getting the occasional opportunity of which others may be more worthy. That makes me want to double down, to work harder and say yes to whatever assignments come my way. Some days I feel like I’m drowning and others like I’m barely treading water. Often I question whether all of this will add up to anything, but then a good thing happens and that carries me for a while.
I want to report back here in another 12 months that something truly wonderful has happened. I don’t know what that thing might be, but I want to be open to it. When it comes to the writing life, I’ve hung up my hobby cleats. I’m in this thing. I’m ready.