After ditching plans to become a pediatrician, a marine biologist, a rock star, and a librarian, I decided at around the age of twelve that when I grew up I wanted to be a writer. I would use the millions I made writing stories to buy a big white house in the country somewhere. Or I’d buy a cavernous industrial loft in New York City. Better yet, I’d buy both and and on any given day jet off to one or the other, depending on my mood. I’d be rich, famous, and happy.
Sometime between then and now (and I’m still not sure when exactly), I decided that this was unrealistic. Someone, somewhere told me that the only writers who made any money were Danielle Steel and Stephen King. I didn’t want to write like Danielle Steel or Stephen King. I still wanted to be a writer, but I thought I had better come up with a more practical plan until the country house and city loft came along.
I decided that I needed a Plan B in order to make Plan A work.
And so I marched off to college with plans to become an editor. I would maybe double-major in English and Business so that I could one day own my own publishing company. This could work, I thought. Make the money to buy the house/loft, and then write later.
There are two big problems with any given Plan B. One: you might actually end up living it. And two: once you’re moved on to Plan B, it is that much easier to give in to Plan C, D, and E.
I make my living as a copy editor. I do not acquire books for publication. I’ve never had the opportunity to take a chance on a new writer and change her life by sending her a contract for a multi-book deal. I don’t own a house. Or a loft.
I have not had a novel published. I have not written a novel.
What I didn’t realize when I began to lean toward Plan B (indeed, it is entirely possible that I am just realizing it now, as I write) is that Plan B was about the house and the loft. It was never about the writing. The only thing I ever needed — will ever need — to be a writer is pencil and paper.
But I got caught in that rut. You know the one. It’s the one where you opt for the thing that makes the most sense right now so that you can have the money to do this, this, and that thing that you’re supposed to do, and then once you’ve done those things you can move on to this thing that you’ve always wanted to do. That rut that everyone warned you about but no one told you how to avoid.
That rut is an interstate highway with no exits.
And I’m starting to get the feeling that the only way off is to say to hell with the exits and just drive off the road. Drive through the wild open. Make your own path.
How does one do that?
Perhaps it has something to do with believing that the woman I am today is the same person as the woman I want to be in the future (an idea called future-self continuity, per Justine Musk’s recent post). Or perhaps it simply has everything to do with pushing past the fear of living an unprescribed life, sloughing off judgment like so many ashes at a bonfire, and trusting myself to find my own way.
I’ll let you know.