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Living, Coping, Improving / Moving Out of the Fast Lane
|Subject: being and becoming||Date: 11/14/2002 6:39 PM|
|Author: jeanpaulsartre||Number: 924 of 5820|
Hello. I haven't been to this board before. To arrive here, I followed a link from the site's email that features certain posts.
The idea of "the fast lane", and jumping careers for something more closer to the bone is what intrigues me with this place at the moment.
I've been a writer since I was nineteen. I'm forty-five now. I don't consider myself retired, but I also haven't worked for any wages in about a year-and-a-half. I may return to "work" soon, but then again I've said that before.
In my adult life, I've probably worked for some kind of wages in roughly half of it. The rest of the time, I've been writing. And often, when I've been writing, I've also been earning through writing. But these various relationships, how I get money from what, have been entirely unimportant to the practice of my vocation.
Whatever happens in the immediate future, I'll be out of the "fast lane", if "fast lane" implies profession, or, even more dreadfully, career. For me, there's quite a difference between a profession, even a career, and a vocation. I've had different professions over the years (never a "career" though), but they have all merely served the one and only vocation I have.
One thing I have to say on reading some recent threads here: this idea that it is hard to make a good living writing, or fretfully difficult to become a professional artist/writer/musician, is nuts. It is a reinforcement of a pervasive narrow point of view regarding the noncredentialed professional's place in our culture. Becoming any of these professionally is no harder than becoming anything else; the only difference is that there is specific societal formula for becoming one.
If you want money as a writer or artist or musician--if you want to be a professional artist of some kind--you will cold call, market, apply, and sell your work, as certainly as you would sell pajamas or insurance if you were a pajamas or insurance salesperson. On any given night in the city in which I live, there are 5,000 musicians performing, two hundred plays being performed, a dozen screenplays being greenlit, two thousand freelance articles accepted, and 1,000 artists on display in galleries alone, not to mention the thousands of writers and musicans on payrolls, and thousands of commercial artists putting their unique wares out to firms that can dependably use them. There is much more room in Los Angeles for another writer than there is for another attorney; there is far more pressing a need for another good artist here at the moment than there is for another good accountant.
To do any of these things professionally, you simply put out your product, get in line, and take your turn. There is not much luck, only work, that stands in the way of becoming an artist, writer, musician. It is not truthful to say that people "dream" of these careers, and, trying, get fearful when they see how "hard" they are, or how much "luck" they require; the truth is that, when trying, people become fearful of cutting loose from family and friends' narrow, suffocating, uncultured expectations for them. They are worried about what mom or sis or James or Joanie will think if they don't "succeed" in a matter of short weeks. Fearing what others will think about what might happen over the next few months if income is not fully flush, they are willing to ditch their vocation entirely, and follow some narrow, suffocating career arc from point to point to point, navigating a proscribed path that was never even really their own, but which once offered the illusion of steadiness and security, until they die.
Once a writer or an artist or a musician becomes fearless enough to shrug off all the familial and societal pressures telling her she's "dreaming", or she needs to be "lucky", and owns up to accepting her own true vocation, she is a writer/artist/musician--and, what's more, realizes even that she has been, all along. There is not even any confirming moment, any sudden transformation. The relationship to money and to the pressures of others has, is, and always will be parenthetical. The professional side of her pursuit is not the defining side of it, it is simply one element of it.
Optimally, you do not even "think" about "becoming" a writer at all (nor artist, nor musician)--it would be like "thinking" about having "become" left-handed, or having "become" Chinese. You simply discover that you are one of these--and when you do, you are best served to shut out the suspicious world as soon as possible, make your stuff, stake your claims, and peddle as you see fit.
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