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Posts Tagged ‘courage’

I’m exhausted. Can’t seem to find my ground the last few weeks. I live a double life. I’ve been thinking about that a lot. How hard it is for artists and writers to live an alternative life. No wonder so many writers are alcoholics and addicts. I can feel the great need for relief from the pressure. A gnawing pressure, an I-need-to-get-moving, I’m-wasting-my-life pressure – so different than performing a 9 to 5 job.

There isn’t much support in our society for being an artist or writer. Many cave from the pressure of trying to do it alone. That’s why it’s so important to find community – people you trust with your work. People you can write with every day. It’s rare. It can be fostered through meeting writers at retreats. But you have to risk exposure. And intimacy at the group level. It’s the only way it happens.

It’s one of those days when I want to cave in, give up. My eyes are glued shut, my back is sore, I look like hell. If someone looked at me the wrong way, I’d probably break into tears. It’s one of those days when I don’t think I can take another step.

I have to get to my 27 hour a week day job. I’ve got deadlines to get the blog up. One of our cats, Mr. Stripeypants, has a urinary infection and we have to give him meds twice a day. I haven’t unpacked boxes from moving last December. My hair is shaggy and disheveled. And my toenails need to be cut. Did I just cross a line?

My tooth needs a crown (the deductible for which I have to save), I need new glasses (since my eyes seem to age faster than the rest of me), a pile of bills needs to be paid, and I’ve had a cough the last few days. I have no idea where it’s coming from. I’m also trying to run a new business, start teaching workshops, finish more pieces that I can submit for publication, and make plans to go Down South with my mother for two weeks in late spring to start researching my memoir.

Did I mention I have a relationship and, bless her heart, she even gets what it means to live with a writer. She’s stepped up the last few weeks to help out with the day to day, doing more than her fair share, even though she’s working full time and going to school.

Stop the insanity. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. This, I don’t understand.

I used to go to a corporate job everyday. I did that for 9 years. I poured everything I had into the structure of the 3 teams I managed. At the end of the day, I’d drag my butt out to the parking lot at 6pm (sometimes 7), sit in dead heat traffic on 169 listening to motivational tapes, go home and heat up a frozen Lean Cuisine, watch TV for 3 hours, go to bed. Get up and do it all over again.

You know that Jackson Browne song, The Pretender? That was me. On weekends I’d paint or meditate or do some clay work in the art studio I had set up in my apartment dining room. Some weekends I’d rent 6 videos and watch movies non-stop until I had to go to work again on Monday. But mostly it was go to work. Come home. Get up and go to work again. That’s what I did.

Until I couldn’t stand it anymore. It might be great for some people. But I wanted something more. I wanted my life to have meaning to me. I had a deep need to create, to give something back.

Everything is integrating now. After 4 years of working hard, hard, hard, on making a living after 9 to 5, and 6 years of writing practice, I’m starting to live my dream. The money part is slow in coming. Many successful writers will tell you, don’t quit your day job. I know where they are coming from. But for me, it was the only way I ever would have worked this hard on my writing. I had to make a big statement to myself.

Yeah, it was dramatic. But I had to plunge in. I don’t recommend it. It caused me a lot of pain. But it was what I chose. To make room.

Writing needs space. A room of one’s own. Silence. And don’t forget money. The green stuff – $$$. Writing has to be funded. If you want to write, you can plan on living a double life: the one where you do your creative work and the one where you figure out how to eat and pay rent.

Many books don’t ever get published. It doesn’t matter, keep writing. Because that’s not why we write. You just have to keep going, when every bone in your body is creaking tired and the gas bill for February is $250.

Keep practicing. Finish those pieces. Schedule your writing in like you do your day job. Give it just as much energy and time. Because that’s what it takes. Writing is a lot of work. And it takes time away from other things. I don’t use those excuses not to write anymore. I make time. I do the work. I have come to accept time and work as a fact of writing.

It’s a simple equation: writing divided by time & money = more work than you’ve ever done in your life. Every day you have to get up and decide if it’s worth it to you.

You’ve got to have a lot of guts to write. Courage. And perseverance. And when you’re down, you’ve got to get back up. And keep going. And, yes, there are days I want to cave.

I feel like Rocky Balboa. Red gloves, blackened eye shadow, the whole deal. Well, I’ll leave out the sit-ups. I hated them when I was 20 and I hate them now. I heard the final Rocky sequel last year was good. And I’ve got to hand it to Sly, he did a lot of crunches for that one. You don’t often see men his age in that kind of role.

Though I’m big on routing for the underdog, I didn’t go see Rocky. I give myself these daily pep talks instead. Rah, rah, rah. Cough, cough, cough. I wonder if they’re working.

Friday, March 16th 2007 

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