Two Years Ago I Started Writing For a Living

Two years ago this week, Maile and I moved our family into my parent’s basement, and I began the tenuous venture of trying to write for a living. So much has happened since then, but when I looked back through my journal of that week, this entry caught my attention:

And so it begins.  My writing life.  This is the time I have been waiting for.  How long will it last before Maile and I run out of money (a valid question, I think, no matter what your faith level . . . or perhaps a sign of disbelief, I can’t decide).  Although at this point we are already out of money so I guess we don’t have THAT far to fall. 

It feels good to be here the cafe, to let the words spill out for a while…Word after word begins to emerge, and suddenly I realize it is okay, the world is turning, the words are coming, and they won’t stop.  They won’t.  Honest. 

I keep monitoring Maile like a doctor monitors a patient doing better than they should be doing.  I keep thinking that if I’m not careful I will turn around and she’ll be emotionally flat-lining, in cardiac arrest, suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that we live in Lancaster and, after this weekend, will not be returning to Leesburg.  There are many friends there, many faces I will miss seeing.  We have not burned any bridges, but it is a long bridge and one we will rarely cross over. 

“What am I doing?” does occasionally echo in the recesses of my mind.  There are moments of panic where I begin to think I am totally insane to believe I can make a life this way…But when those thoughts come, the only thing I can do is write, write, write, let the words keep spilling, splashing, let them run out on the lush green grass and form pools and small ponds and then the rains come, overflowing the banks, rivulets pouring out, forming small fissures, and then, deeper, a river runs.

I have been thinking quite a lot about the last two years. Something my uncle told me during those first few months sticks in my mind: “When someone makes a decision to leave the beaten path and do the thing they’re passionate about, it’s like all the forces of nature and of God come behind that person and carry them along.”

Well, two years later and we’re still being carried along.

* * * * *

Have you ever made a crazy decision to step away from a predictable life? Do you want to? What gave you the courage to do it, or, if you haven’t yet, what’s holding you back?

22 Replies to “Two Years Ago I Started Writing For a Living”

  1. I definitely want to. And some things are falling into place in the next couple weeks to make a step in that direction. Not all the steps we need, but a few of them.

  2. Every time I read one of those “if you could do anything, what would it be” questions, I think of so many of my friends who are doing what they want and think, “You CAN do anything.” The question needs to be, “What are you willing to sacrifice to do what you want to do?”

    We have it in us to do a lot. We just have to decide if we really want to do it or not.

  3. I’m making that decision right now and those words were exactly what I needed to hear today!

    I keep asking myself, “How will this all work out?” The only answer I get is to keep trusting in God.


    1. Good luck, Sarah. EL Doctorow said that “writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights but you can make the whole trip that way.” I think life is like this, too.

  4. We are a year and a half in to our similar experiment, except, I’ve not been trying to “make a living” off of writing, but to finish my MFA. That next stage (the, “Okay, now what” stage) is fast approaching, and it is both an exciting opportunity, and a little scary.

    I totally identify with the “checking the wife as if she’s a patient doing better than expected” mindset. Thankfully, mine keeps reassuring me she’s fine and happy that I’m pursuing my art.

    Thanks for another good post, Shawn.

  5. So it seems we are always doing the growing up, and shall never truly be “grown ups.” Last year, I thought I was about to embark on writing ever and only all the time. This year, homeschooling has shifted my time and priorities but not the core of my being. This is a call for me to remember: I can do hard things, and I can and will make a space for what I am about. Thank you.

    1. Not being “grown up” was one of my major sources of guilt when Maile and I made the move. Knowing that I might never get there has become a comfort.

      1. talk about a shift in values and purpose, plus having a teammate/spouse who supports your life vision. not a gift to be undervaued.

  6. Risk.

    It’s a gutsy, sometimes dirty word. I don’t wanna live in the safe, the always comfortable, the always easy.

    But sometimes I do. And when I’ve lived that way, it’s been boring, I’ve gained weight, and I’ve not been happy.

    Gotta grow and move and plow.

    I love this post. Keeping me on the ever-turning path with your words. Thanks much.

  7. Thanks so much for this post. I needed to hear that the road had been paved ahead, and that you too had similar “what am I doing” moments. Sometimes it is so clear, while at other times I question my sanity! I look forward to reading more about your journey.

  8. Love this retrospective, Shawn! As you well know, my crazy decision to play at the writer’s life was made in June. I’ve been blown away by some of the opportunities since then but what I really marvel over is that my novel is 62,000 words in. All this storytelling lived inside of me? That is craziness. No matter what comes of it, I have no regrets.

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