Don’t Quit Your Day Job

When I was 15 (and younger) I wanted to be a writer.  I told everyone who would listen and many who wouldn’t listen.  Assholes.  I wanted to shout it from the rooftops, from the basement, from the bus stop, from that corner where that guy almost abducted me while I was walking home and he stopped to ask me if I wanted a ride home and I said “No thanks” and then “acted” like I had mental problems.  When you’re fifteen, you want to tell everyone what you dream about doing for the rest of your life.

You hit your 20s and you start to get very quiet.  Everything else gets in the way.  And I’m not talking about getting a real career. I don’t have a “real” job.  I’ve worked in a library for the last 18 years at a job built for a high schooler.  It’s not like I spent most of my adult life building skills and wealth.  I’ve been in hiding.  From my dreams. Those pesky bastards.

I reached my late 30s and instead of screaming about wanting to be a writing, I can barely mouth the words.  And instead of saying I’m writing something, I say in a dismissive tone “I’m just scribbling some stuff.  I scribble.”

Because I think my dream of being a writer is dead.fuck this shit.jpg

I joined this online group for writers.  You submit your stuff for other writers to critique.  It sounded like a pretty good deal.  For four days I sweated over submitting the beginning of a story, just a sample of something I’ve been working on.  I even threw up a little in my mouth when I hit the SUBMIT button.  I kept checking my email, hitting the refresh button enough times to fade the lettering on it.  I got my first critique last night.  The woman corrected a bunch of my grammar.  I’m a writer.  Of course my grammar is atrocious, mostly in the forms of way too many commas and semicolons thrown in willy-nilly.  She said my writing was “wonderfully descriptive” and I took that to mean “You are not a fraud, you are not a hack.  With some practice, you may even become a good writer one day. Please don’t give up.”

And then the second critique today.  Another writer said that the story didn’t hold her interest.  My knee jerk reaction was “Well fuck you and your interest.”  See?  Right there.  I think that’s why I should give up on wanting to be a writer.  I can take correcting my grammar but if you’re saying my story doesn’t hold your interest then I’m no writer.  Not a writer at all.i give up.png

Man.  I sure say fuck a lot.

I’ve been getting up at 1am to do my writing because that seems to be “my” hour, when the house is quiet and it’s just me and my music and my writing and maybe that crazy drunk woman walking by on the street. But I’m 38 now.  If I haven’t gone anywhere with my writing it’s my own fault.  I finally asked my very bestest friend Kathy to read some of my stuff and that took a LONG time for me to do because I hate writers who pimp their stuff on people.  It’s a specialized kind of whoring that I don’t think I’m cut out for.  I don’t think I’m ambitious enough to be a writer.  I’m willing to put in the time but dudes, I’m almost 40 with not much to show for my life.  Maybe I should put those ideas away and concentrate on stuff I’m good at like sleeping and Netflix marathons and pretending to be a kind person.  I think I’m going to go head over to the valley of dead dreams where it kind of smells like a thrift store and there’s lots of people with dead dreams milling around.  I see a cowgirl, a singer, an actress, most of the cast from every VH1 reality show ever…..little bit.jpg

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About jkhughes2

I'm fat and I hate my job. Well kinda. Kinda on both of those. I love to read and work in a library where they don't let me read. But as long as I get to be around books I'm happy. I once wanted to be a writer and then realized that I'm too lazy to write a book but not too lazy to write a blog. And blogging is like keeping a journal except my posts are the equivalent of verbal diarrhea. And oh yeah. I have really low self-esteem. I have a dog named Max but I call him Maxhole. He's the first dog I've ever had. I find his daily life way more interesting than mine or most people I know. That's about it. I hate politics and computer books. I secretly wish I was Doctor Who but can't remember if that's "was" or "were." Now that's it.
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8 Responses to Don’t Quit Your Day Job

  1. I suppose the kind thing to do at this point would be to say “Don’t give up.” Instead, however, I’ll put the same sentiment in other terms by saying “Keep doing what you’re doing.” I, too, always wanted to be a writer. As a teen, my mother tried to instill in me the (disappointing) idea that it is possible to be a writer while doing something else to pay the bills. As awful as that sounded back then, it is what I settled on. These days, I find that I can actually make a little bit of money writing nonfiction. It’s tough making deadlines when I have to be up in the morning to work my day job, but it’s better than just writing for kicks and giggles. Granted, it’s not the type of dream I had as a teenager, but at least it’s a workable compromise. I think it would be a lot more difficult for me if I were a hard-core fiction writer. In my soul, I’m a poet, but I have too many rejection slips to be hopeful. Just keep on truckin’, fellow writer.

  2. There are people who would totally be interested in reading your stuff and are nice, then there are snobs who LIKE putting people down and are picky readers. I had to live with a snob like that for 9 years. She didn’t believe I could be a writer. She didn’t believe I could be anything (She put out the flame in me when I told her I wanted to become a veterinarian just months earlier). She was an aunt who was mentally and verbally abusive towards me, so she’d get mad and punish me for everything.
    Whenever I got too happy, she suppressed my happiness. Whenever I had a great idea or saw a flaw in her judgement, she would somehow form her words in a way that would always make me look like I’m wrong. Every time. (Well, except for when she mistook feverfew for chamomile, offered me “chamomile tea from the garden”, chugged its tea against my warning, and later threw up a bunch. I couldn’t help feeling happy that day. I felt like laughing, “See? I told you! Who’s the brainiac, now? Huh?” But I’m not that kind of person to say – or even think – things like that, even when I am that mad. It was a rare thought, a trembling anger, a hysterical feeling, but I held my tongue. I’d get into huge trouble, anyway.)
    When I was 13, my writing level was poor, and my imagination was high. I still didn’t understand the concept of paragraphs and how to use them, my spelling was so-so, and my grammar was frustrating to decipher and a huge embarrassment.
    But the thrill from a dream I had that inspired the story was so strong, that even after unsuccessfully trying to make sense of the “book” that I had worked so hard on for 4 months, I decided, “Well, I know that most writers aren’t geniuses and at least know a little bit about a lot of things, so if I learn at least a little about a lot of things, I’ll make it.” Mind you, I was a kid with PTSD, possible ADD, a learning disability, and Asperger’s Syndrome. I was a kid who’d spend days over a single problem and eventually give up, who’d hardly ever finish her work, and whose assignments were mostly graded with an “F”.
    Therefore, I can understand how my aunt never believed in me, but even when my skills had improved dramatically in one year, and I was gushing with brilliant ideas like inventions and inspirational quotes, she still saw no worth in me. The more the years passed by, the more I realized how much she loathed me for no apparent reason and tried to put me down with every chance she got. Why? I never figured out. She was a genius, yet the weeny size of her heart would make the old Grinch jealous.
    Anyway, I told other people about my book series, and they loved the sound of it, and encouraged me to keep going. Perhaps one of the first major people that gave me a good nudge forward was one of my slightly distant cousins, Steve. He works for Boeing and has an IQ of 106. To think that a genius relative saw potential in my books and passions gave me a great boost.
    That was on the day of a family reunion, so you can imagine how mad my aunt was that somebody was treating me like a human being. I can’t remember all that she said to me afterwards, but she wanted to crush me so bad, and nothing she could do or say could find a weak spot in me. Steve’s encouragement kept me strong for a while.
    Jumping forward by several years, there was a time when I lost my will to write. It was when she pulled me out of my Christian home school center, the only place where I felt was home. Kids never teased me. There were over 800 kids of all ages attending there, Preschool to 12th grade, and smiles were everywhere. Everyone treated me like family, and I wasn’t even popular or good-looking, either. To be removed from a place like that, and to have my rights of having social interaction with my friends and peers taken away, was like a living hell.
    I was put into what I called “lone school”, school in my bedroom, on “room restriction” for months at a time, with only 2 days to 2 months of freedom in between before I’d anger the witch again for any petty reason. I became depressed for seven months.
    At the end of it, I felt like I was going crazy. I haven’t said this to a lot of people, but to keep myself sane and communicative from the near constant seclusion and from the verbal and mental abuse, I often had mock conversations in my bedroom with friends, family, even strangers. I’d have my daydreams aloud. So, basically, I had to go insane to keep myself sane. Sick, isn’t it?
    By the end of my depression, I felt like I was going crazy. I also felt that, if I kept this up, I’d lose myself. And, in-so-doing, I’d lose my stories, too. The stories I dreamed for, fought for, lived for.
    So, I forced myself out of depression. I worked for three weeks at suppressing my feelings and emptying my mind: No thoughts, no feelings, just blank. When I’d feel a wave of crushing sadness and hopelessness, I’d catch it as though it were a fly in my fist, and empty my mind as though it was never there. Soon, her hurtful words meant less.
    Of course, she always spoke in a way that required my attention, like having to recall and rephrase what she said to show her that I had heard her, so it was hard to suppress my thoughts and feelings. I was half-successful.
    But by doing this, I had a greater drive than ever to write, feeling like I had run out of time. I wrote in secret, mostly daydreaming all day of how each book played out. Mind you, I’m talking an average book’s wordcount of approximately 422,000 words for each book (“G3:DF” ended up being just over 422,000 words, so I’m estimating by that because the other books are about as long). That’s five whole books in my head. *does math for the first time on that* …OH MY FREAKING OUT GOSH. I… I didn’t…. I mean, I have never thought about it in a word count measuring sort of sense. …If each book is approximately 422,000 words, that’s 2,110,000 words in my head.
    When I was daydreaming the books, I’d play it out both in a visual and in a writer writing point of view. So, when no dialogue was playing (I say “playing” because the books I daydreamed played like movies in my head), I was filling in the silence with things like “She spun around and swung her sword even as a weapon came into view from the shadows.” in my voice, as though I were telling someone the story or writing the book as it happened. I had so much time in my bedroom, I daydreamed the whole book series about 4 – 6 times from beginning to end, so I still have most of the series planned out in my head even as I type this. And here she thought I shouldn’t and couldn’t be a writer!
    Years before these events happened, it had been a year or two after I started planning and writing the series, and my aunt caught me writing instead of doing my homework (which I needed help with, but she would have gotten mad if I had stepped out of my room to ask her for help. Besides the fact that she was a terse, crabby, and impatient teacher, which only made it harder for me to focus and learn.). She got mad of course, telling me to stop writing.
    I clarified her words, accidentally revealing my hopes, “I’ll just write when I’m done with all my work, or only write during summer break.”
    She told me, “No! Never… write… ever… again.”
    I was afraid of her for a good two months, afraid that if she caught me again, that she’d take all my writing away and do something terrible to it. I couldn’t bear the thought of it, so I stopped writing for two months.
    During that July, I kept myself busy by reading Eldest by Christopher Paolini. However, after that month was over, I could hold the urge back no longer. My stories were calling.
    I wrote in secret, late into the night under the covers. I wrote a good deal like that. It was what later became “G3:DF”. I wrote just over half of it. Five months of writing right there. That’s when I was taken out of my home school co-op, I became depressed, and the rest happened.
    After I got out of that household, which I am loathe to talk about to anyone about how it happened, I went through a few years of recovery time. During that time, I was somehow dragged into a creative writing club at school: Quite literally, in fact.
    Being quiet and reserved, happy being myself and avoiding the typical teenager drama, I had few friends at the time, save for a bunch of special ed kids I’d sometimes talk to or sit with at lunch.
    That day, I felt like writing poetry or something of the like, so I sat by myself, huddled over a notebook.
    Suddenly, a girl came up to me and asked if I was writing, and if I liked writing. Surprised that a stranger would be that bold to talk to the only person sitting at a whole lunch table, I began, “Uh, yes–”
    The girl took me by the arm and said, “Come with me. You’re sitting with us.”
    I barely had time to grab my stuff as she dragged me over to a small round table with a small group of kids. She introduced herself and to the others, then finally told me that they were going to start a creative writer’s club. I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I ended up going to a meeting with them and the librarian later that day and suddenly realized I was literally part of a group who were forming a club from its beginning foundation: A creative writers’ club was being born, and I was helping other writers like me form it and bring it into the world.
    I still have the notes I wrote that day, of all the ideas I had, the others had, and the ideas I circled that were mine that ended up being used (I was amazed and felt important and appreciated for the first time in many years, so I circled them as a reminder that I was worth something more than I was aware of). It’s on the wall in a plastic packet hung on my wall. One day I’ll have it laminated so it won’t get wrecked.
    We discussed everything from the name of the club to what we’d do in the club. I suggested “The Kreative Writers’ Club” for its name, and it stuck. It felt fitting, especially for the feel I had about the group. I became its Vice-President, but I didn’t do anything more that year. My only role as Vice-President was help lead the group if the President wasn’t there, but she always was.
    The next year, I was just a member because I had a small job after school, so I couldn’t guarantee being at every meeting and try being its President.
    That next year, though, I became its President. I had great ideas, but being that they were kids and that a few were the fussy, snobbish, talking-over-me, I-hate-all-of-your-ideas-just-because-I-want-to-be-in-charge type of people, I had difficulty making them do even the simplest things.
    When it came time for us to try to get published together, only a few wrote a short story, and all but two of them (including mine) were long enough to be called a short story. Two paragraphs ain’t a short story, and with three people writing about the same darned thing didn’t help, either. The others opted out because they either had homework, finals, or things to do after school.
    So, the whole self-publishing thing flopped. Two months of research and deciding which self-publishing option was best (P.S. Createspace was the winner) went to near waste. But at least I accomplished a lot with the writers’ club and had fun.
    After I graduated (2013 instead of 2010, thanks to my aunt refusing to give up my home school proof to the public school system), I decided to wait before I’d look for a job. I wanted to write again. No more homework, no more people holding me back from writing any more. I was free.
    I rewrote the book I had lost. It took me a year and a month, but I did it. I rewrote G3:DF all over again. Late June, 2013 to the beginning of July, 2014.
    There will be people in my life who will like my stuff, and there will be people who will say that it doesn’t hold their interest — even going so far as to make me look like I’m worthless and not good enough for anything. “Well, that’s good. I’m picky, too. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any more options to feel you have to complain to me. Maybe instead of saying that my work doesn’t hold your interest, you can kindly not say anything and just pass it on to a person who does like this genre or writing style. You are only one person, and I am only one person. If you don’t like it, there are thousands of more books out there waiting for you. Go ahead and read them. Find what you do like. I can write what I plan to write, and I will. And if you think you can write better than me, go write your own book with your own ideas. If you can’t find a book you like to read, maybe it’s time to write something you do want to read.”

  3. Laine Keeney says:

    I don’t know shit about shit, but your blog has held my interest, when 99.9 percent of them make my eyes glaze over. You’re real, you’re raw, and you say “fuck” just the right amount.

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