There are typically two reactions when I tell people how I quit my very cushy and well paying fulltime teaching job to pursue writing. The first is, “Can you make a living doing that?” and the second is, “Good for you!”
When I first started hearing reaction number one, I admit I became personally offended by it. Oftentimes I would later stew over my response, wishing I had said some variation of the following, “I appreciate your concern, but I would much rather you think about my career in positive ways rather than failure to earn enough money.” That is how enlightened Kelly would respond.
Occasionally, I also fantasized about just saying, “That’s none of your damn business,” and dramatically walking away with my head held high.
That is how unenlightened Kelly would respond.
I mostly said responses along the lines of, “Sure, people make a living by writing every day. There’s no reason I can’t.” Then I would provide a lot of evidence in support of my claim and also add to my argument about how being a nomad with very little living expenses helps. Of course, what it all comes down to with any of these responses is that I felt defensive about their question because that is actually something that terrifies me when I allow worry to break through my consciousness
Thankfully, I don’t allow that very often, and I have multiple spiritual practices in place to help me, but I have, in fact, already considered this concern. I have probably thought about it a lot more than these people may have. For example, here are some other concerns I have about being a writer:
I will be an utter and complete failure, never getting a single book published.
People will tell me “I told you so.”
I will die without making a mark on this world, which for me means empowering others, especially children, to live lives of gratitude, joy, abundance, love, light, and laughter through the stories that I write.
Or, worse yet:
I will have to get a job that not only stifles my creativity and imagination (like teaching statistics and research methods; I did that for nine years and I never want to do that again), but also controls my life with an inflexible schedule (like when I audited mortgage loans at a bank; I did that for four summers in a row during college and I never want to do that again, either).
But when I compare these worries to another one of mine, namely lying on my death bed at the age of 121 (yet miraculously still looking like I’m in my 30s), regretting that I did not give writing full time a try, the choice is obvious. I am going with my dreams.
I’ve already given up decades of my life trying to fulfill what society tells me is a successful life – “making a living” – and I’m ready to go for my new definition of success – “living a living.”
That’s it, pure and simple. Staying in the moment, staying true to who I am, and what I feel I have been called to be. I am a writer and that is now how I am living my life. Thank you, Spirit! And, thank you, Kelly! We are in this partnership together, but I’m so glad you have my back.
And for those people who respond with reaction #2, I also can’t thank you enough. I have had people tell me that I am brave and that I am living in a way they wish they could live.
Sometimes I do feel brave about this choice I made and whenever anyone wishes they could live this kind of life I provide them with the same encouragement that they have graciously given me. I think we can all do it, we just have to face our own fears. For me that is failure, embarrassment, death, and an 8am to 5pm desk job.
I’m pleased to report I haven’t experienced any of the above yet. On the contrary, it seems like I’m on the write path (haha, get it?).
Since the spring of 2015, when I embraced writing as a way of living, I have written two short stories, one of which was selected by Outrider Press/TallGrass Writers’ Guild for publication in their annual anthology and the other I have submitted to various contests with literary magazines.
I have also written 18 children stories, one of which won second place in the Carteret Writers’ Inc., 25th annual writing contest, children’s literature genre. I have several of the other manuscripts currently submitted to publishing houses and agents.
I am also one-third of the way through a first draft of a contemporary fiction novel, North Pole Rising, with the possibility that it could be a series. In the meantime, I go to writing groups, workshops, and conferences, and meet other writers who give excellent advice and support. I read writing and publishing blogs, listen to writing and publishing lectures, and complete writing exercises on a regular basis to better hone my craft.
So it’s not as if I am pursuing my dream with just a wish and a prayer. I am willing to work at it and I am making sacrifices along the way. But by living my writing life, I have found inspiration in the world around me and my list of story ideas keeps growing. I have never been more excited by what I am doing and it makes me feel I am successful according to my own definition. I am now fully comfortable and confident with my choice because it is my choice. Others may disagree, and that’s perfectly fine with me, even if you catch me on an unenlightened Kelly day. I will simply smile and wish you well. Because that’s what I hope you would wish for me.