I hate to judge people. I don’t have to live their life, I don’t know what’s going on in their head, and (after many years of experience) I’ve learned that things that may come easily to me don’t come easily to everyone else.
I’m about to be a little judgey.
This first occurred to me a couple years ago when I spent a few days traveling with a casual acquaintance I’d made on one of my other trips. This person was in their late 20’s, living at home with their parents, and marginally employed. When I asked them about what they wanted to do, they told me some sort of career, I think it was hotel management.
I asked this friend what they were doing to get there and got some sort of explanation involving wishing and hoping to be hired straight into that position. This person had no experience with hotels and no reason that some company should just hire them into that position.
But when I suggested that they start working at a hotel–maybe at the front desk or something like that my friend poo-poo’ed the idea. That wasn’t what they wanted to do. They wanted to work in management.
So instead of finding some job, any job that would give them experience and help them be more qualified for that dream job they wanted, they did nothing. They sat at home–their parent’s home, let me remind you–and felt sorry for themselves.
I couldn’t help but wonder if they really wanted it.
I see this with some writers I’ve met, too. They say they want to be a writer. And they don’t have a back-up plan. This is it. They put off real jobs and opportunities to focus on their craft.
It’s not like they’re pursuing a full-time career and writing on the side. These are people who say their sole goal is to be a successful writer. And yet…
They don’t write.
Or they don’t finish what they write.
Or maybe they finish one short story a year.
And, yeah, I get it. It’s hard to write. It’s hard to push through to the end of that story or that novel.
It’s not, really.
Sure, it’s hard to write something good. But it’s not hard to write something.
Writing does require time and dedication. You have to sit somewhere and write for long enough that you actually put enough words down on paper to make a story.
But…that’s actually all it takes to write something.
(Again, realizing we’re not talking quality here.)
These writers who want to be writers but don’t write are just like my friend who could’ve started at the bottom and worked their way up to management.
They don’t understand that you have to start and keep going.
Because I’ve been down the corporate road. You want to know how it works? (Big secret time.) You get a job, you do well at the job, people notice, they offer you additional opportunities, you do well at those, they notice, you get more opportunities, you do well at those… Rinse, repeat for the next fifty years.
It really is as simple as that. Oh, sure, where you get a job matters. Some companies have more opportunities than others and sometimes you just get a shit boss. But even most shit bosses know to use their good people. And even if there aren’t opportunities at that job, your co-workers notice your performance or your customers notice.
Do good work and people will notice.
But, see, the key to that whole process is getting the job. It’s starting in the first place.
The best possible thing you can do is choose a job (any job) and put your all into it. Move full-speed ahead at whatever it is you’ve been given to do.
I hesitate to write that because I spent fifteen years moving full-speed in a direction that maybe I didn’t want to go. (And I over-dramatize that, because there were some really good and interesting years there, so it’s not like I spent fifteen years in misery or anything. It’s just that the path I was on didn’t ultimately lead to the life I wanted.)
And I know from personal experience that it’s tough when you get too far down one path to step off of it. You develop a comfort with where you are and what you’ve accomplished and the money you’re making.
But, the more I meet people like the friend I traveled with and a few of my fellow (young) writers, the more I think it’s better to just start. Pick a direction and go.
If you want to be a writer then WRITE.
Write a story. Then write another one. And another one. Don’t aim for perfection. Don’t stop halfway through. Write the whole thing. And give yourself a deadline. Write a story every month. And then every week. If you must, don’t finish this story, but finish another one within your deadline.
Go full steam ahead.
And if you’re not going to go full-steam ahead on your writing, then find a job and go full-steam ahead on that.
You will not get anywhere sitting around dreaming and talking about being something someday. You have to start. And, generally, you have to start at the bottom where it’s a hard, long slog that isn’t very rewarding.
Do you want it? Whatever it is? Do you want it?
Then go for it. 100%. Heart and soul. Start at the bottom and work your way to it.