Years ago, when I lived in Memphis, Tenn., my favorite restaurant was Aubergine. It served creative, high-end French cuisine that my job at the time allowed me to enjoy. The chef/owner was a culinary artist. And like many creatives, he had his quirks. For instance, he periodically fired his staff and shut down the restaurant while he returned to Paris to recharge his creative batteries (or whatever he told himself he was doing).
As a creative writer, I can respect that decision to care for his creative needs, at the risk of alienating his audience.
As a self-employed writing professional, I realize that this man was clearly not cut out to run his own business. Certain professions require creativity and brilliance—two ridiculously subjective concepts—but successful businesses need to deliver a consistent, high-quality result for a steady stream of clients. If you keep shutting your doors to seek your muse, your customers will stop coming back. They’ll find other, more reliable sources of . . . whatever. The product or service doesn’t really matter; the same principle applies.
So why do I mention this tale?
Well, this happens to be my third attempt to boot this blog.
Third time’s a charm?
The first time I started blogging, I didn’t have a clear vision. The entries meandered and finally petered out.
The second time, my vision was fairly clear, but I struggled with prioritization. How could I build and create a successful blog when I couldn’t scrounge together the time to finish my current novel?
Two years later, I have finally concluded that this blog—as part of my overall creative journey—needs to emerge as a priority, in addition to my fiction writing. Oddly enough, personal experience suggests that, the more commitments I make, the more I accomplish. The trick, however, lies in committing to the right things.
A girl’s gotta eat . . .
For the past two decades, my day job has come first. I have always recognized and respected the need to pay bills, to apply my talents to practical endeavors that generate cash. Writing novels and short stories is hardly a solid game plan for putting food on the table.
As the months and years whiz by, I can’t help but notice how far away I am from building a fulfilling writing career.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been supporting myself with my writing skills my entire adult life. In fact, I have genuinely enjoyed climbing the corporate ladder and developing skills in both corporate communications and corporate politics. I have also enjoyed expanding into the field of marketing and learning how to build and manage a business. My clients are awesome, and it is a privilege and a pleasure to help them promote their products and expertise.
While all of this is excellent and constitutes a “successful” writing career in many respects, my business writing (or current writing business) doesn’t feed my soul. I realized some years back that, even if I left behind a small fortune for my son when it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil, I would still feel like a complete failure if I hadn’t pursued my writing dreams.
Let your inner child play
Writing newsletters, white papers, and blog posts is interesting and educational, but it’s hardly what my eight-year-old self aspired to do with her life.
It has taken me an extraordinarily long time to realize that my eight-year-old self is still around, hoping that I’ll finally give her a chance to live her dream.
Like so many, I have always regarded my creative journey as something to tackle later, the prize at the end of a long, productive, and (hopefully) lucrative career. Frankly, that approach is stupid.
The perfect time—for writing, starting a family, traveling—never comes. Accepting this fact, we need to seize the opportunities that come our way and run with them. Otherwise, we risk looking back upon countless wasted chances, with nothing of substance to show for our efforts. In case that wasn’t bleak enough for you, this day of reckoning can come at any time, say, at age thirty-two instead of eighty-two.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed. How will you spend today?
What matters to me
These morbid thoughts have inspired me to commit to my creative journey. Here’s what this looks like at the moment:
- Finishing my current novel in progress. It’s an urban fantasy that’s already 2.5 years in the making: Pride and Prejudice, with witches.
- Starting and maintaining this blog, perhaps with the ultimate goal of turning entries into a book of essays or a more cohesive book on building a creative life of financial independence. (Tip: Cut down on your spending. You’ll not only need to make less, but you’ll also buy yourself more time to make art, without literally paying for that freedom.)
- Brainstorming and developing story and novel ideas, with the goal of completing an additional three manuscripts by year’s end. (Depending on how things go with the blog, that manuscript will also apply toward this goal.)
- Exercising on a regular basis and improving my diet so I can stay healthy. Nothing derails productivity like injury and illness.
- Continuing to do my utter best for my current clients, while identifying new prospects that I would enjoy working with. In case you hadn’t noticed, none of the above activities guarantees any form of cash flow. This girl still has a mortgage to pay.
- Spending quality time with my son. He’s four now and growing up faster than kudzu. No matter what happens with all of the other endeavors, I will never regret taking time to teach and play with him. All too soon, he’ll be out of the house and living his own life. I’ll miss the days when he walks over to my computer and tries to push down the monitor: “Play with me.”
While the above priorities may appear random and unfocused, the list actually represents a multi-pronged attempt to pursue my goals and dreams, while allowing them to sustain me as I ply my trade and meet the practical demands of life.
So that’s how I got to this stage of my creative journey, and this incarnation of the Oolong Inkwell. Hopefully, third time will be a charm.
If you’re actually reading this, thanks for sticking with me. I’m not quite sure why you would do such a thing, but I respect your time and appreciate you spending it on these words.
Are you making time for what matters in your life? If not, then why? What does a fulfilling creative life mean to you, and what steps can you to take to make that a reality?