The ups and downs of professional writing

I got serious about writing three years ago, and in some ways, I’ve done well for myself. I’ve gotten checks for a couple pieces with more zeroes on them than typical. I have connections and people who believe in my writing.  I had, at one point, a platform: a Twitter account with about 4.5k followers, which is not fucking bad for someone with no book out.

What everyone will tell you and what nothing can prepare you for is that progress isn’t a straight line. I am an entertainment cliche: I’m here to make friends. I need to do this more than I want to. The other night, some friends invited me over to watch the Elton John movie, and they asked me to predict plot twists like a magic trick (What is at the bottom of the pool? A child, of course.) and howled when I got it right. At certain plot points, they made significant eye contact at me. Not in the right spots, but between you and I, a by-the-numbers-story of a sad artist’s rise was validating to see externalized.

This is a business. Unfortunately, being appreciated for sharing something dear to me, something precious to me, felt profoundly healing in a way that drove me to work late nights and dawn to dusk on weekends. In its absence, I am less driven.

In my daily life, I seem to glide past people. I once went to a self-help seminar my friend invited me to that I was 75% sure was a cult before I went, but I was at a point where a cult, honestly, sounded like a step up. One of the very first exercises was having a stranger tell us exactly what we thought of one another. It was far more awful to do than to hear. What I heard was: I’m boring. I didn’t seem to have a real inner life, I didn’t have feelings, or a wit, or any fire or imagination. This woman saw herself as a real artist (she even had a bitchin’ leather coat to prove it), and could not imagine I had even an ounce of leather in me.

I feared worse. It was, strangely, a nice sanity check. I really do have an inner life the world doesn’t see. Writing gives me that ability to connect. But it’s also an industry chock full of people with a similar hunger, but with nothing that will actually, finally, sate it. Mea culpa.

I can’t be more specific than this. Be meticulous with your boundaries, and be kind to one another, because the lows are both inevitable and very low. You are not alone.

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