Confessions, After Twenty Months of Making My Living as a Writer

Twenty months have passed since Maile and I came to the conclusion that I should write for a living. Some days I wake up with this almost paralyzing fear that the day will come when our finances will dictate that I cannot do this anymore – other days I’m scared that I might HAVE to do this for the rest of my life.

There have been moments of high praise, when the words I write garner thanks and approval and curtain calls. There have been serious meetings with clients during which I am told the words are not what they were looking for. Not good enough.

Of course to me this means I am not good enough. It is difficult to disentangle my self from the web of my own work.

For the first time in 20 months, blogging feels like a chore, but I just cannot give it up. Will not? I suppose the latter is more likely.

I think I’ve hammered down through the loose dirt and shale, the surface image of what I always thought it was to “be a writer.” What I’ve found is not what I imagined.

This mine I’m digging smells old and dark. It’s more difficult to move around than I thought it would be. The veins hide among the wet rock: mere slivers.

Somewhere in the dark, the realization came to me that I can’t hammer all the time. Occasionally I need to brace myself against the rough walls of this narrow shaft and look up, enjoy the moonlight as it drifts down to where I work.

But I’m doing what I always wanted to do: I wake up, help the kids get breakfast, then sit at my desk and write. I eat lunch with them and then write again. Maile and I get to spend so much time together. Sometimes at night, when the house is quiet and one or the other of them cannot sleep, I sit on the floor beside their bed, working on a novel. I wonder if any of them will remember me like this. My laptop glows, like a new idea.

Like moonlight.

25 Replies to “Confessions, After Twenty Months of Making My Living as a Writer”

  1. Like your honesty … sometimes being a writer sucks.
    In the middle of this ‘glamorous’ career … there’s a lot of daily grind that has to happen.

    These words from Roosevelt have carried me through recovery, running and writing … allow them to help you. “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

    One word at a time …

  2. I appreciate your honsety. I wish I could write full time, and in my wishing I imagine it would be constantly and unflaggingly fulfilling, which I know it wouldn’t be. This glimpse is helpful. Keep writing.

    1. You know, one thing I’ve realized David is that there is always something to strive for. That can be good and bad. For the longest time I wanted to write for a living. About six months ago I realized that my next dream is to write my own stuff for a living. I think we are geared to be chasing stuff, and that’s okay as long as we appreciate the great things about where we currently are.

  3. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Don’t give up! You have been obsessed with words since I can recall. Remember that summer you and I read for nearly 8 hours a day with occasional breaks to beat Mario Bros.? I mean, COME ON! You’re made for this. I’m sure of it. Nothing great ever comes without immense struggle.

    Love you, Shawn Bawn!


  4. The one and only time I solely worked for myself was in 2006 when I tried my HARDEST to become a full time Mary Kay consultant. The best advice that I was given was to look at it as a job, a 9-5’er even though it was far from it. I had to set hours when I would go out to try and meet new people. I had to set hours to call customers. I had to set hours for appointments. I had to set hours for marketing. It took commitment, but at the time, my business thrived because I looked at it like a business. Even though this is “just you” it’s much more than that. It’s your business. Your work isn’t necessarily you. Take time to separate the two when you can. I’m glad you’re still moving forward with it!

  5. Hey man. I know it’s probably difficult. I will be praying for you in it. You are my inspiration. When your children grow, they will follow your advise because you lived your dream. Criticism as an artist Is probably the hardest thing to hear even if it is essential. You are a great man.

  6. Good for you! I relate as a work-from-home freelance publicist and writer. It takes discipline, I’ve learned, and a lot of it comes down to what you make it. I’ve discovered that I can do quite a bit if I put my mind to it, but it’s all self-taught and figure it out as you go. Sometimes frightening, sometimes dull, sometimes incredibly satisfying.

    I hope you’ll keep that laptop glowing!

    1. Yes, yes and yes. I know what you’re talking about. Good luck to you as well, and thanks for stopping by, Stephanie.

  7. I used to write when I had a moment to myself, in between play dates and reading the Berenstain Bears one more time. I wrote when something, some idea wouldn’t leave my mind alone. I wrote a blog to captures these inspired moments. Now that my kids are all in school, I have a set time to write each day. It is harder than I realized it would be. Like you wrote, it is mining in the dark, hoping that some sliver of good words will come out of it. It is good to know that others also find the writing work.

  8. So long as writing still feels like what you WANT to do, go for it. Keep enjoying the people, the places, everything about your life. It will keep your writing fresh and real. Besides, it keep life itself more fun.

    You are gifted, Shawn. Keep at it so long as you have the passion for it. Besides, all things we love end up having a sort of push/pull, drowning/refreshing quality. The inexplicable contradictions of something being so fulfilling and meaningful, while also so impossibly draining at times is just part of this fascinating human condition.

    Best wishes to you as you chase the vocational, family and spiritual fulfillment you seek.

  9. i can relate. i have had moments over the years, realizations really, that i cannot write without taking breaks to live. from my actual life comes the fodder for story, fuel for the writing i crave. i live my writing life in waves, usually blown by the rhythms of family, and have come to accept the rich times of tumbling words and the dryer spells where all i get done is client work (theater versus my own fiction). i too have waned in my blogging because it interferes with my fiction. haven’t found an answer to that yet, except to blog less. the first 3 years i blogged almost daily – now 6 or so years in, i only blog every month or so. theres no point in having a platform if i haven’t any work!

  10. Awesome, man. :) If you ever feel like giving up, I’ll write under your name and you can sit under a tree and drool for a few hours (months?) until you find your footing again.

    Writing is the devil. But it’s also pretty damned divine. ;)

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