By Amanda Kusek
Most of the time I don’t claim to be a writer around strangers. Explaining how I schedule my time, how I frequently write for free, or where I’ve been published can come off as though I am giving intimate details about my life. I’ve come accustomed to giving my professional elevator pitch ever since I was met with eye rolls when I said I wrote but wasn’t published. This was at one of my very first professional events in New York City. I was young and in a new place. My already bruised ego was pummeled into the ground. It’s my own fault for taking the easier route and glossing over my writing for so many years after that moment. Every time I do it, a part of me wilts.
I grew up knowing how rare it is to make a living from words—think of all the writer/professors we have out there alone—but I didn’t appreciate the notion until I was faced with the burden of paying off my student loans. By relinquishing eight hours a day and gaining a paycheck, I lost the ability to call myself a writer, something I had done so easily throughout school. I work as an Office Manager and spend most of my days organizing, scheduling, ordering, and making sure the underpinnings of the company stay put so the executives can grow it. I do enjoy being the great big pair of arms that catches everything that falls, but I always have to be consistent and alert. There is little room for error which means there is little room for downtime and daydreams. Daydreams are food for writing.
With a fear for eyerolls and embarrassment instilled in me, I’ve come to spend a considerable amount of time researching what it means to be a writer and how I can get closer to being printed in respectable publications. And doing it all while maintaining my day job. I’ve even dedicated an entire blog to the great project of making it work. I prepare for blog posts by reading about the lives and routines of published writers. I don’t always report on my findings but I did write about the fitness habits of Kurt Vonnegut. I plan on adding more authors to this series as I find the connection between the physical and the mental an interesting part of creativity. As I dig into memoirs and autobiographies, I find less than ideal routines, dirty jobs taken to make rent, and an unshakeable willpower to keep writing—Don Delillo worked as a parking attendant, Kafka worked in insurance, and Steven King taught.
As I dig I start to believe I’m going about this the right way. At times I almost feel elated that I, too, can be a writer who works. I‘m reading and working through Lee Gutkind’s You Can’t Make This Stuff Up and just today on the subway, while surrounded by the autumn illnesses of others, I read this:
…What about people laboring alone and in the dark, who have yet to achieve success? They may be reluctant to tell people they are writers, lest someone ask what they have published and whether they have appeared on the bestseller list. This is a difficult barrier to cross—to have faith and confidence in yourself; knowing in your heart that someday you will prove your worth and that your practice and passion will lead to satisfaction and success. This is the challenge almost all writers confront…
Here, a writer is not someone who is published or even paid, it is a person with desire and perseverance to keep practicing and honing their skill. Why is it so hard for me to remember that most writers spend hours and weeks and years becoming as great as they are? I know the answer even though I wish I it wasn’t true. I am living in a time of immediate satisfaction and of a generation used to instant answers; patience is not in my DNA. The lure of self-publication floats before me and I want to bite. My millennial instincts are asking me why I would wait to be published when I could just have it now. I fight back. Believing, though it is hard at times, that my practice and work is writing. It’s not a poorly bound book sold over social media.
After learning to understand (and trust) that all I needed to do to be a writer was to write, I became one. I have started moving towards what I have always wanted. Non-fiction essays and personal writing are not what I am formally educated in or know much about, but I have found that they are what make me happy. I write for online magazines and blogs that allow me to explore these avenues and practice as I go. I still doubt myself and I still have trouble trusting in
the process, but when I do I look to great writers and artists for not only inspiration but camaraderie too. I have a quote taped to my wall near the dining room table by the painter Georgia O’Keefe: “You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.” Maybe it’s time I go to a few events and test out my new title.
About the Author
Amanda is a writer living in New York City trying to navigate through her late twenties. Cheap Courage is her blog dedicated to doing what scares you with confidence. To learn more about Amanda, check out her resume and writing clips on her official website.
This post was originally published on Niche’s website on October 30th, 2014.