What I Can’t Do

I’m tired of people telling me what I can’t do.

I’m tired of a certain person (CP) telling me I “need to take a break” or I “need to slow down” or all my health problems are because I stress myself out over the writing.

You wanna know what’s stressing me out? Working 40 hours a week with a very stressful population, being paid just as much as someone working with a caseload of /r/,  only being paid for 32 of those hours, and taking a 20% pay cut.

Not writing.

I wonder if CP is concerned I might fail at the writing gig, and it will break me.

I wonder if CP is more worried I might actually succeed, and it will break her.

I don’t think it has anything to do with me… I think it has everything to do with her. She hasn’t read anything I’ve ever written, and her support of this new endeavor has been… tepid, at best. She’s only supportive when she thinks someone (not me) might judge her for her lack of enthusiasm.

Her disdain has been so couched that I can’t always get mad at her in the moment. I recognize it for what it is, but if I complain, she always says, “Oh, you’re so sensitive. You think you’re going to fail, and you put that on me.”

But it’s things like, “You need to take a break. Your stomach hurts because you’re spending all this time writing. Maybe you need to take it easy.”

Or, “You should be spending this time with your kids. You’re not enjoying them.” (Incidentally, she said this when I went back to work full time because we were flat broke too. Don’t know where she thought we were going to get the money from. I don’t live under a magic money tree, though that would be delightful).

Or, “You know, it’s hard to get published. Maybe you need to quit.”

Response to point one: My stomach hurts whether I’m writing or not. It’s not stress, not entirely. I write instead of watching TV–is that somehow a more noble, relaxing pursuit than writing is? Besides, at this point, I’d go crazy if I didn’t write. I have all these stories in my head, and writing them down actually allows me to stop thinking about them–and my aching stomach. It’s like exorcising a demon–once the story is done, I don’t think about those characters anymore. I think about others.

Response to point two: I am spending time with the kids. I try not to write too much while they’re awake–the bulk of my writing takes place between 7:30 and 11:00 PM. Or when Dora is on. I don’t need to be actively engaged while they’re watching TV–too many Nickelodeon shows, and my brain might explode. While they’re thinking about Dora, I can think about my characters. It’s a lovely respite.

Response to point three: Yup. And nope. I’m not ready to give up yet.

So, if you think I won’t succeed at the writing thing, it’s possible you’re right. I concede that point.

It’s also possible you’re wrong. Maybe, just maybe, I have the ability and the fortitude to make this work. Maybe I won’t make any money, maybe I’ll make a little. I don’t harbor any hopes that I’ll be the next JK Rowling (though if a publishing agency wants to give me that kind of money, I’d be happy to take it… Like everyone else in the entire world.). My writing is not about the money. It’s about me. It’s about doing something I love to do. It’s about being able to tell my children, “Yeah, I had a dream, and I pursued it.” It doesn’t matter if I fail–I already have a career I love. What matters is that I didn’t give up on a dream I had just because I thought it might be hard and I was afraid to fail.

What matters is that I wasn’t content with easy. Yeah, it’s hard to fail. But I suppose failure is better than lassitude. I think that’s a lesson worth teaching the kids.