A recurring existential crisis

I have this recurring existential crisis wherein I feel like if I only try harder and do all the things¬†(specifically all the things I’m NOT currently doing) success will fold open for me like an origami flower.

Mostly this just tires me out and gives me a migraine.

I know that’s what’s going to happen. I know I need to focus on sustainable progress, but I still get caught up in these mind games with myself, spin around in mental circles, and wind up with nothing but frustration.

That’s why I’ve written down my definition of literary success and the steps I’m taking to get there. I try to look at them once a week or so to remind myself that I am already doing exactly what I should be doing to become a successful writer (writing, revising, and submitting on a regular basis).

With my work life, though (you know, the work that actually pays the bills), this is much harder. Because one of my ultimate goals is to be able to support myself financially with my creative writing (i.e. I don’t really want to be a freelancer writing magazine articles), I tend to filter everything through “will this get me closer to full time fiction writer?”

And that’s mostly fine. I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of income now for achieving my dream. But this is where we get into a bit of a catch-22, and into that recurring existential crisis.

  • I need money to pay the bills so I can focus on writing.
  • So I work 40 hours a week for pay and benefits.
  • This limits the amount of time I have to write.

Without even going into the issues inherent in a literary landscape that does not offer appropriate monetary compensation to authors, I can never figure out if this is enough.

I keep asking myself: Should I pursue better-paying employment that would allow me to out source certain things like, say, painting my house, that would allow me even more time and space to write, plus extra income to attend residencies and conferences?

Or, even better-paying employment that would give those perks plus be more intellectually stimulating?

I love my current job. It’s interesting, fulfilling work and it has a great benefits package that I would be unable to function without (literally, because health issues, fun!). The only downside is the low pay. That’s not the worst downside a job could have, but it is significant.

Thanks to the great benefits package my husband gets as part of his awesome job at a university, I have an opportunity to get another master’s degree for 10 percent of the normal cost.

In the short term this would likely mean LESS time to write and LESS money to spend on things like writing contests (my thoughts on this will probably compose another post in the near future), because I can’t afford to give up my full time job and I do still have to pay that 10 percent. In the long term it could equate to better earning potential, which would eventually allow me to attend more writing conferences and submit to more contests, where there’s a higher potential payoff than non-contest submissions.

Giving up what little time I have to write now is not an idea that excites me. And that’s before I even get to the question of which degree to pursue (that’s another post for another day).

And so my head spins round and round. Am I doing enough? What is the right decision? No one can make it for me. I suspect that I am on the right path, but I’m not sure which way on the path I should go.

While my brain spins itself in circles, I’ll keep plugging away at my daily writing practice, because I have no doubts about that.



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