Unfortunately we live in a world ruled by expectations. By age one we are expected to be talking. By first grade we have to be reading. By twenty we have to be studying hard at college or join the military or have some other career path set before us. By early twenties (late twenties at latest) we must have our lives figured out and working diligently to make it happen. But rarely do these expectations actually ever happen the way other people think they should, or even we think they should. Life likes to throw curve balls, or worse, we just don’t dance to the beat of the what-is-expected drum.
I’m one of those off beat dancers. I’ve always been that way from early childhood. I didn’t go to school like regular people (I was homeschooled from 5th grade to graduation). I waited until mid-twenties to go to college, because I was too busy being a learning-on-the-job person. I’ve dabbled in everything from hand-made crafts, photography, photo processing, amateur movie making, graphic design, writing, and editing (noticed I only made a list of my creative avenues, everything else is of little interest to me). And it’s only been until I started writing that I actually found something I could stick with and enjoy for the long haul. But it’s taken me until my early thirties to find it. Then those pesky expectations had to come in and ruin it all.
After college and in my late twenties, I actually found a job I liked and could see myself settling down to be there, hopefully to retirement. The expectation of finding a good job, making good money had been realized. I was happy and fulfilled. Two years later, I found out I was pregnant. Six months after my son was born, I made the life changing decison to quit my job and become a full time mom. And there in a puff of smoke went all my efforts to being a contributing working member of society. Canceled out by my one whopper of a decision (that ended up being the best decision I ever made for me and my family despite the financial woes we endured afterward).
I loved being a mom, but I also had to do something else to keep my sanity, so my passing hobby of writing became a bigger deal. A few years later my hobby expanded into a full blown obsession. Now I can’t see myself doing anything else but being a writer. Except making a career at writing isn’t easy, and I would much rather write what I want than worry about what might or might not sell. But regardless there was that expectation hanging over my head. The one that says we have to be working AND making money to pay the bills. And well, the bills did need paying. It’s seems unless you are a doctor or a lawyer one income (my husbands) just isn’t enough. So I pushed myself to be published because it was not only expected of me, but the bills were piling up.
I did have a few successes in my writing. A couple of short stories published, but the excitement of being published and recognized soon fizzled out and I realized that’s not what made me happy as a writer. What I truly enjoyed was working on my current novel (Blood Feud) and the encompassing world of the Ethain Universe (which I have planned out a whole series of books with a prequel novella and a handful of short stories to expand the story further). In this storyverse, I finally found my story. The one I needed to tell. But (until recently) I was still imprisoned with the idea that I had to be published. I had to make money at writing.
In truth, I don’t have to do any of that. And I shouldn’t, not if my real writing has to be sacrificed. In my attempt to be a money making writer, I forgot why I chose to write in the first place. For myself! I put being published above everything else, and other people’s opinions weighed heavier than my own intuition. In doing this, I made things much harder on myself than it should have been. My writing went from a fun, exciting adventure to something I almost dreaded. Only pure determination and force kept me writing to get done with the last draft of my novel, and it wasn’t until I was done that I looked around to realize this was not the kind of writer I wanted to be.
What happened to that spark of zeal that rippled through me every time I even thought of my story? What happened to those awesome writing zones I’d slip into and whole hours would pass before I came up for air? What happen to the excitement of the unknown every time I sat down at the keyboard, wondering what would happen in my story that day? Did it all just go away, or did I chase it away with a club?
In hind sight everything is 20/20. I realize now that it was my ultimate goals that dragged me down. It was my expectations of being published and making money as a writer that kept getting in the way so that I couldn’t enjoy my work, or enjoy the experience. Sure. I think being published is a dream every writer has, and making money as a writer is feasible (but requires a lot of effort and a good amount of luck), but having it as a main goal can get in the way of what writing is really about- at least that’s the case for me.
One day will writing be an actual money making career for me…? Maybe. Maybe not. But for now I’m throwing away the expectation of being well published and finding a money making career as a writer. Instead, I have opted to start doing freelance work in editing and graphic design to help make up for some of the slack in the bill paying department. Now that my son is in school full-time I can afford to make that commitment. So once again I begin the journey of completing that expectation of finding a good job, making money, because unfortunately that’s one expectation that can’t skip out of- mostly out of necessity.
I’m done throwing myself into stories I don’t care about just to try to make a buck. I write for me and me alone. I’m allowing myself the freedom to be the writer I truly want to be, not what is expected of me. I’m done being a slave to others and my own expectations.
Honestly, I wasn’t sure about posting this, but in the end I decided to do it. Mostly, because I wondered how many others out there have felt this way. How many others have struggled under the banner of expectations in writing whether it be being published, making money as a writer, or something else? I write this in hopes to share my experience and that it may help someone else find the answers he maybe seeking, or help someone lift the heavy burden that’s been weighing her down.
I’m writing to give YOU the permission to be the writer YOU want to be, and not the writer you are expected to be. Find a way to set yourself free from those burdens and enjoy writing just for the sake of writing, because isn’t that why we all started writing in the first place?
So what expectations have you set for yourself? And ask yourself… Are you the writer you want to be?