Writing: Heeding the Call
13th in a series: Read Part 12 or Go to Beginning
Recently, I got one of those “I’d love to write for a career” inquiries. While I would never discourage anyone from following their passion, my standard reply begins: “Don’t quit your day job.”
That may sound like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m quite serious. As one who has dealt with the rollercoaster of erratic revenue for nearly 40 years, I know how challenging living with uncertain income can be.
In a word: maddening. Trying to write while concerned with whether you can meet this month’s rent or mortgage payment, pay the utilities, and get groceries? A gut-wrenching experience.
Yet, if you feel God calling you to write, nothing else will make you happy, provide fulfillment, and make you feel as if life is worthwhile.
It’s not that writers are unique. A calling also applies to the desire to teach, preach, counsel, sing, act, dance, build houses, or (fill in the blank).
Many a successful business owner launched operations as a sideline while still working their traditional 9-to-5 routine. That way, if business slowed down, the basics were still covered. Which makes sleeping at night much easier.
In recent months, I’ve been dealing with another down spell in the ever-changing world of freelancing. It’s made me grateful that I waited until 70 to start drawing full Social Security payments.
Those who start taking early payments at 62 with the idea they can draw for so much longer also overlook the fact that they will be drawing a lot less per month for the rest of their days.
The difference can be quite significant, which is why I’m glad I waited. A financial planner suggested that option, telling me every year I waited was like earning 8% more. As he put it, it’s hard to get that kind of reliable return these days.
Financial issues aside, only you know if you are suited to the emotionally wrenching doubts that accompany anyone who pursues a creative endeavor.
I once met a woman who had moved to Hollywood trying to make it (eventually she did). However, before she achieved her goal, I asked if she had landed any roles. She mentioned filming a commercial with a major-name actor that paid $20,000. Sounds pretty cool—until you realize that was her only paid acting gig for the whole year.
This kind of struggle is common. I’ve read author’s notes from best-selling novelists about going through self-doubting phases where they moan, “Why would anyone want to read this?”
Second-guessing yourself comes with the territory. Which is why writing is a much greater act of courage than many imagine. I’ve talked with first-time writers at several conferences who handed me their poem or article with fear and trepidation on their face as they asked, “Would you take a look at this?”
It’s a scary thing, putting yourself out there on paper. In the early days of freelancing, I did primarily PR work because I didn’t think it possible to make a living as a freelance writer (and later, an editor).
Even though things were slow and I needed to make a sale, sometimes I would wait a couple of days before sending out a query letter or story. My hesitation came from the pain of thinking about the rejection that might well follow.
Even today, I’m still not sure how I made it through those times. Well, I am. Faith. Belief in God will take you much further than any motivational speaker or pep talk. As your Creator, He knows what makes you tick.