What You Can Get

I was reading an article the other day. The details of the article are not important, but as I was reading there was a line that stood out to me:

“Are you focused on what you want, or what you think you can get?”

From the outside, it may appear that I’m doing pretty well going for what I want. I’ve given up not one, but two possible career paths with which I had every reason to think I could be successful—and which would likely have given me long-term financial stability—to pursue writing . Why? Because I want to (not a satisfactory answer to the many raised eyebrows out there).

I want to know what it’s like to make my own schedule. Go to bed when I want, get up when I want, work out when I want, and spend my time creating something rather than managing something(other people). I don’t know how long I’ll do it, or where it will go, but for now this is what I want to do and I’m doing it.

However, what I realized when I read this statement was: though I may be focused on what I want by choosing writing, I’m often falling into the what-I-think-I-can-get trap with the writing itself. How? By worrying about what I should write over what I want to write. As if there’s a ‘should’ to begin with.

When I first got into writing, I started with short stories mainly because the idea of writing a novel felt kind of like heading out for a marathon before ever having run 2k. I really enjoy writing short stories and plan to write (and hopefully publish) many more in the future. But what I really want to do is write a novel.

I have the novel in my head. Some of it is even on paper. Whether or not it will ever get published, I want to finish it. Of course, if I said I didn’t care at all about it being published I’d be a big a big fat liar. Like any other budding writer I have a fantasy where I walk into a book store and there’s my book for all to see—preferably with people actually buying it. But more than that, I just want to know that I’m capable of creating a complete novel with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Hopefully linked with some level of coherency and interest.

The problem: finishing a novel takes time. No way around it. No matter how brilliant and efficient I am, it will take time. Editing and publishing would take even more time. Meanwhile, I feel like a fraud. I call myself a writer but can’t point to anything new out there for people to see. I can’t prove it. I can’t justify it because I’m not making money, etc, etc.

This is where the trap is set. I’ve had some success with short stories in the past, after all. I also have a number of others sitting in draft form that may or may not make it to the market. I could shift my focus back to the short stories (and routinely do hence all the drafts and the yet-to-be-finished novel). I could edit these, submit them, write a few more. Some of them, at least, would get published. I might even start making enough money to buy more than a cup of coffee. Then I could point to this product (blog about it, jump up and down, scream) and say “Look! See? I really am a writer.” All the while, my novel sits unfinished.

Sure, I’d look at it occasionally and tell myself that I’m working on it concurrently, but every time I’d look at it I’d have to reread it to remember where I left off and try to figure out what I was thinking. Then I’d get frustrated and go back to another short story. Focused on what I can get instead of what I want.

Maybe someday I’ll get over myself and stop worrying about whether or not someone out there thinks I’m a fraud? Hope so. That’s the plan, anyway. At least for today, I worked on the novel. Even though no one can see the progress but me.

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