I’ve been doing so much thinking this year. I need to do a lot of thinking before I get back to just doing and having faith in myself. This year has proven time after time that life has a tendency to bump me towards people who help guide my thinking in the right direction. Just little things–maybe even just one sentence or phrase from a whole conversation–sticks with me for a reason that is only made clear after digesting it and mulling it over.
For example, I’ve been brooding about what the heck seven years of college have added up to for me, besides one expensive piece of paper I’m struggling to figure out what to do with. I’d started college with the notion that, once you went through college, you’d jump right into a career and that’s what you did for the rest of your life. I’ve met many a people who’ve graduated with one degree, yet found a career in a completely unrelated field. That was good and all, but I had this notion I’d just follow my heart and everything would turn out alright.
I originally declared myself an art major. I drew nonstop growing up. I was decent at it. Competitively decent, maybe, but nothing breathtaking. At one point during undergrad, I had a choice between an acting class or a speech class for one of my Gen. Eds. The thought of getting onstage scared the heck out of me, but there was no way I was gonna make myself talk in front of a classroom. It would be insufferably boring. I ended up thoroughly enjoying the acting class, so much that I acted/sang in The Hobbit: A Musical.
Even after all that enjoyment, I went on to declare English as my major when I matriculated from my local community college to CCSU. My writing tugged at me, even though the thought of taking all those dull literature classes made my eyes glaze over just thinking about them. That’s not an exaggeration (my apologies to those who love literature). Anyway, that turned out to be a profoundly fateful day. After maybe two hours of being an English major, I switched to Theatre, with a Creative Writing minor. Long story short: life had paired me up with people who would help me on my personal journey. And no boring lit classes to boot!
At some foggy point during undergrad, my heart pulled me fully away from acting and to my writing. But I wasn’t done with my degree. What was I to do?
I finished what I started, despite how painful and awkward it was at times, especially since I’d learned to tell the difference between good acting and bad acting, and I didn’t fall under the good acting category. Still, I managed to make myself useful with behind-the-scenes work, then got tricked into being in an actual production when one of my movement classes turned out to be a play called Replika. I made myself suck it up and do it, but refrained from signing any of the dressing room walls on the first performance night. It felt wrong when I’d known for a while that I was a writer; not an actor.
I took a year off before applying to one grad school and getting accepted. Here was life guiding me towards people I needed to meet once again.
I’d been querying literary agents on and off during undergrad. To no great surprise, I got rejected by all of them. I’d learned during undergrad that my writing skills needed work. I didn’t learn how much work exactly until grad school. I’d entered thinking I must’ve been seen as some awesome fantasy writer because of my essay and writing sample that was part of the application process. Another long story short: I think I cried during my first residency. My peers tore apart my writing sample, and then it happened again during one of my online classes. How could they all call my story and writing crap? How dare they? And the professor, too!? At some point I had to concede that so many people saying the same thing had to have truth to it. I set aside my ego and pride, and learned that all of them were right. I began to grow as a writer and storyteller.
Now, in my defense, I read almost nothing but fantasy. This genre is full of great storytellers, but not necessarily great writers. I could write a whole blog post about the strengths and weaknesses of my beloved genre, but not right now. What I’m getting at is that the role models I had left me lagging so far behind all the other talent in my MFA program that it was embarrassing. I pushed myself to catch up to the point where I’d burn my eyes out at least twice a semester and couldn’t look at a computer screen for at least 24 hours when that happened. I squinted and winced through brief emails to my writing mentors, explaining my plight and asking for extensions on due dates as necessary. Yeah… don’t do that.
I entered grad school with the delusion that it’d secure me either a literary agent (which I was well aware that it didn’t secure you a spot on bookshelves), but if not that, a clear path to bookshelves. God, I can be so naive at times. But anyway, I’m still in the process of carving my own path to bookshelves via independent publishers. Yes, I got published back in April 2012, but I did it all wrong, so I’m redoing it right now. Please bear with me and be patient.
So, this post has been adding up to two questions I’ve had to ask myself recently. 1) So what’s my day job while I pursue where my heart lies? And 2) What exactly is my dream as a fantasy novelist?
1) I’ve been trying to avoid answering that question for years. I’ve wanted to badly to have writing as my day job, even though roughly 4% of writers can live exclusively off their writing. That’s it. That’s reality. As far as the day job part, I still don’t know. I’m going to school for one more year in hopes of securing a job as a PMA. It’s such a strange decision to make when all I want to do is follow my heart. But the reality is, I need to do something intelligent so I can live independently, fully support myself, and take pride in myself to the point where I’ll actually consider dating. So back to school with the hope that third time’s’ a charm proves true this time around.
2) The obvious part is that I want writing to be my main career. I want to go around doing book tours and helping young adults discover their love of reading. All movies, TV shows, plays, music, etc. starts as something written down. How can you not love reading if you love the movie that was read from a script? Am I making any sense? On top of that, maybe more kids will discover they love to write as well. They’ll have something to do that’ll keep ’em out of trouble. They’ll have purpose, goals to focus on. Who knows? The less obvious part is that I want to be liked. Widely liked. It sounds so narcissistic to say, so I apologize. And there’s a third part that’s even more selfish to admit, but helps me segue into the final leg of this post. Please, please, please don’t make fun of me for this. The third reason is that I want a solid, valid reason to meet Vin Diesel. I’d like to write scripts for him, create characters whose journeys he’d like to go through. Stuff like that. Nothing more. No romantic delusions. Hugs from him? Heck yeah! Anything else? I’m pretty sure he’s got a girlfriend. I’d rather respect their space and leave him be.
Admitting all that to myself helped me get back to pursuing my writerly dreams. Made it all feel less pointless. Ironically, Vin’s been helping along the way. I’ve had dreams with him in it–no, nothing smutty, you moron. He would be there but we’d never directly interact, hardly talk, or he’d even pointedly ignore me. I talked animatedly with his sister in one dream (I have no clue if he has a sister) and I’ve interacted a little with other members of his family that I have no clue exist or not. It was all very strange, and very frustrating upon waking. It took me forever to figure out what the heck he symbolizes: the epitome of what I perceive as success. Widely popular, widely loved, doing what he loves for a living, and living his dream.
I understand that not all of you are rap fans but give this piece a shot. Listen to the lyrics. They capture the passion fueling my desire to succeed as a fantasy novelist.