…or how I grew up, got a job, and decided to go for my dreams.
Today, I want to talk about making misery work for you. Don’t go thinking I mean writing sad, introspective novels. You can write those novels if you want to, but I’m talking about channeling misery into something more useful.
Brandon Sanderson, fantasy novelist and former teacher, has said (on Writing Excuses, in class, etc.) that the reason he wrote so many novels before getting published is because he could always imagine a cubicle chasing after him. I always interpreted that to mean that he was driven to write so he could avoid working inside a four-by-four box doing something he cared little about.
I find the thought amusing and sympathetic. But the cubicle has become very real to me since I got a job a month ago. I’ve always said it’s different to know something and to know it. I knew I wanted to be a full-time writer. But after this job, I know it.
So what’s the job? I do over-the-phone tech support.
As one co-worker said, it’s like trying to play chess with someone while wearing a blindfold. Needless to say, it’s not my ideal job. (If anyone from my company reads this: Hi. I’m grateful to have a job. Thanks. Bye.) Every morning when I wake up at 5:15 am I daydream about how wonderful it will be to wake up at a reasonable hour and be my own boss. Every time a customer yells at me (at least once an hour), I think how great it will be to confine the angry characters in my life to the pages of a book. Every time I worry about obeying a rule that mandates how much time I can spend on a given activity, I look forward to the time when my rules will be about characters, plot, and decreasing world-suck.
What I’m saying is, the cubicle isn’t chasing me anymore. It’s caught me. (I was never any good at taking advice).
And then again, what I’m really saying is that if you want to be a writer you have to work for it. It’s taken me a while to know that I wanted to be a writer. At some point in the last four months, I’ve transitioned from college student with a dream to entry-level employee who now has to make her dream come true. And like Brandon Sanderson, I guess I’ll do whatever it takes to motivate myself. For me, that means transforming a soul-sucking misery into motivation. I wear my misery like a ribbon around my finger: remember what you want. Or like a scar on the back of my hand: You must not lie to yourself.
Go, friends, and work for it. Don’t let yourself dream only about the moment you “arrive” (be that publication, getting an agent, or making it onto the NYT bestseller list). Instead, dream about the daily butt-in-chair time. That’s what your dream really is, and I’m sorry to tell you that it will always be accompanied by…
…a little bit of misery.