(Not) Going Pro

I wasn't sure if I wanted to title this one going pro or turning pro. I'm sure you'll see the results of that, if not this paragraph, when it's finally published.

One of the big dreams I had when I was a kid was to be a professional writer. I didn't know if I wanted to write newspapers or books or what, but it was definitely something that I wanted to do.

And I wrote quite a bit. I had a problem with finishing stories -- my biggest habit was to let something shiny distract me, or to let my motivation walk away, and just leave something, unimproved, unfinished.

The dream of becoming a professional writer was one that stayed with me all the way up to and including my decision to go to university. I made the decision to follow the road of Computer Science, and I don't regret it at all. I love programming, I love problem solving, and I think I would have been cheating myself if I hadn't walked that road when it was presented to me.

I still think about how possible it would be to balance my career with a sideline career in writing. All the old standard stereotypes call to me. Sitting at a computer, hammering away at a draft. Bouncing a ball against a wall while I think of a resolution to some plot point. And, of course, the feeling of accomplishment when I see my book on the shelves at Chapters. It's a good dream. It's something that I would love to be able to do. But...

But, reality is always a bit more mucky. I like writing. I like to post here, and I like to write in my journal. I like writing stories, and I'm always game for a kick at the National Novel Writing Month. And I really do think that I have what it takes to get better at writing. The thing is, I already have one super-demanding job that requires that I keep getting better at it, and I already have one vocation. So, does it make sense to turn my life on its ear, write the stories, edit the stories, and hammer publishing companies, trying to get them to notice me? Could I be that ten-years-in-the-making overnight success? Do I want to do the work required? That's the question I struggle with. Do I really want to do what it takes to turn pro?

I wouldn't say I'm at a crossroads. I can just keep doing what I'm doing, maybe get better, maybe don't. Just push out stories, until I get over this thing I have with editing my work. Or not. I could just keep writing for the hell of it, and never let any of my fiction see the light of day. I'm sure there are a lot of people who do that. And besides the crushing disappointment, how would that make me any different from the people who send out their manuscripts, only to receive rejection after rejection? I guess I know the answer to that question.

Thing is, I don't ever really do something without wanting to get better at it. It goes to stupid lengths. Reading? I want to get better at it. I want to be able to understand all of the symbolism and characterization involved. I want to understand how the story was constructed. Why? To be a better writer? No, just to be a better reader. Listening to music? I want to get better at it. I want to understand how all the parts come together to make a better whole. Watching TV? Yes. That too. So I can't just write without wanting to get better. And I know there are a lot of ways I can improve. I just don't know what they are or how to get them. That's a lie. I know how to get them. Edit my work. Rewrite it. But I don't know how to do that. And I don't know if it's worth the effort. That's not a slam on me. That's just me trying to figure out what the best use of my time is.

Of course, there's also a balance there. I don't want to be absent from my children's lives. I don't want to be the guy who holes himself up and is inaccessible. I also don't want to miss out on the fun things in life, like the new Zelda game, or a stitch-a-long year-long cross stitch pattern that gives me a sense of community in a usually-isolated hobby. I have to decide what is a distraction from what I want and what is what I want.

For now, I'll keep plugging away. I will look at some resources on editing, rewriting, and areas that I could look into for my own improvement, but if I'm not going to do this for a living, at least for now, I'm still going to try and be as prolific as I can.

Until more, later on,

Liam