On Being a Grown Up

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“Interference” by Pete Writer

What did you want to be when you grew up? Or, maybe I should phrase that in the present tense: what do you want to be when you grow up? Ever since Rooth asked a similar question last week, I’ve been trying to figure that out. Ever since I was little, with brief interludes when I wanted to be an astronaut and a ballerina (not at the same time), I’ve wanted to be a writer. Even as young as six, when I wrote my first story (a boy becomes best friends with a large tree in his backyard, they talk and share secrets, but the tree is chopped down and the boy is devastated. Until he goes to school one day and the teacher hands out paper and all the paper starts talking to the students, and the boy realizes it’s his tree. That is Pulitzer material right there), I knew I loved writing. My mom first realized it in 3rd grade when I wrote a book report on The Phantom Tollbooth, and after describing the mysterious tollbooth that appears in Milo’s bedroom, I began my second sentence, “Through it he drives…” I think my mom’s reaction was something like, “Who the fuck writes like that at eight?” I first realized I could maybe really seriously do this in 10th grade, when I won a playwriting competition and had it produced, when words that I’d slapped down on paper one night were read out loud by real actors and I burned in my seat with shock. Maybe it was when I got into Emerson for Creative Writing and felt more joy and pride and happiness than I ever had in my 17 previous years, the culmination of four straight years of wanting one thing and getting it, all pent up in one purple acceptance envelope.

And then I let it go because it hurt too much to hold onto, after I had to defer back to a college close to home when my dad got sick. It felt too close so I pushed it away. I fought it in college, settling into Photojournalism even though I took the same Creative Writing workshop three different semesters, the maximum amount of times you could take the course for credit. I didn’t write a single thing for years. And then I started this blog. And then I started a book. And now every time I sit down with a pen and notebook or with my fingers hovering over the keyboard before taking a deep breath and diving right in, it feels like coming home. It is where I’m supposed to be, my head a deafening roar of words and sentences and vignettes, voices (the good kind) that don’t quiet until I’m falling asleep, when they let themselves out with turns and phrases so perfect I don’t worry about scribbling them down, that there’s no way I won’t remember them in the morning, but I inevitably don’t.

But I don’t know what to do about it. Sitting at my desk at home, writing and rewriting the same paragraph over and over doesn’t exactly pay the bills, you know? If I were independently wealthy and didn’t have to worry about money, I can guarantee I’d stay home full time and write. I’d fill my house with musty books, keep some music on quietly in the background, and just write. I’m still trying to figure it all out, but I’m not fighting it anymore. It feels better than being lost.

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February 25, 2013 / life / dog / LEAVE A COMMENT / 20

20 comments

  • you’re so right not to fight it anymore… knowing what you want to do in life is the biggest blessing of all… celebrate it & don’t panic, a door will open someday, somehow & until it does just pursue every opportunity that presents itself! :)

    • Thank you, Sue! I’m trying to see everything as an opportunity; it really changes your outlook on things! I so appreciate your support. xoxo

  • You are such a talented writer, everyone who reads your blog can see that. t’s definitely what you should be doing, so keep going!!! I can’t wait to read your book when it’s finished :-)

    • Thank you so much, Niki!! That’s seriously so encouraging and kind. I hope I won’t let you guys down if my book a) ever gets finished and b) ever makes it to print! xoxo

  • I found this post very moving, Erin. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I can make for tricky living being married to the guided missile that is my husband. It’s very moving to hear how you’re finding your way back onto your path and how good that fit feels to you. I will posit this to you, however. I do feel that much creative spark comes in those spaces “in between.” Those in between times when you have to cram in your best creative moments between work and the grocery store and cleaning the house and tending your relationships.

    As you know my dad is an artist and some of his best and most productive years as a sculptor came when he worked full time and sculpted on the weekends. Did he want to sculpt full time? Sure. But he also recognized that being out in the world fed his creative spark. I’m not saying turn down those millions if the lottery comes knocking, but trust this time that isn’t enough time. It’s giving you something. I promise.

    • Thank you, sweet thing. I had no idea the direction this post would take when I started it, but it felt almost cathartic to get that out. I totally hear what you’re saying about having an actual full-time job; I felt that way about photography when I was majoring in it in college. Being that close to it all day everyday made me kind of resent it after a while, which explains the 2 year break I took from it after I graduated. So I’m not opposed to keeping some sort of part-time occupation, so that I don’t grow to resent writing (or not writing, you know).

      Our dads sound super similar. My dad did have a period where he was a full-time artist, but I think he felt more fulfilled when he was working as an architect. I think. I like to think, that is. xoxo

  • Dear Future Author Who Makes Her Living By Writing Beautiful, Intricate Novels……
    This post would not be complete without a mention of your visit to Emerson. When asked to write the opening line of a book, yours was so perfect that the professor said, “Oh, I’ll remember you in September!” Few people have that talent, fewer follow their dream. Me? I finally figured out what I want to be when I grow up. RETIRED! I love sitting here each morning with my triple shot cappuccino, a bowl of oatmeal and read your blog.

    • Oh, you! I actually completely spaced on that entire trip, wow. What a great day that was. I still have that slip of paper we wrote our “beginning sentences” down on. I want to be retired. Which I guess is the same thing as wanting to sit home all day and be paid to write, when you think about it. Want to fund me?? Haha. xoxo

  • I have always loved to write, I think most bloggers do. And although I love to write and can completely relate to you, “And now every time I sit down with a pen and notebook or with my fingers hovering over the keyboard before taking a deep breath and diving right in, it feels like coming home,” I am no where near as talented as you. I do hope one day that you publish a book (or two or three!) and can live the dream of writing all day :)

    • Oh, you! Hush hush, you are an incredible writer. I think most bloggers tend to love writing and it’s the easiest medium to choose a lot of times. It’s a great community for instant feedback, too!! I hope to seriously publish a book one day, but I’ll be happy to just write one (and if I have to self-publish, you all get free copies! haha). xoxo

  • I’m like, the opposite. I started college as a bio-engineering major! 1 playwriting class and that was it…I was gone. I made some of my best friends in my MFA program, and I enjoy going around saying I have a master’s degree, and it was a good experience…

    but sitting around writing things doesn’t pay the bills (or the student loans)

    I wish I had been smart enough to know that I could use all the other hours in my weeks (less the 40 I would be a bio engineer, or whatever) to pursue my passions.

    I’m really counting on reincarnation, because I messed this life up big time.

    And now I don’t write at all.

    • I had no idea you went in as bio-engineering! Wow. What a stark opposite from playwriting, but I’m glad you found your niche eventually. Even if you don’t write now. But you should! You SHOULD be writing (it’s always easier to encourage others than it is to encourage yourself, isn’t it?). I wonder what I would come back as if we were reincarnated. I like to think I’d be a Very Serious Writer, but who knows. xoxo

  • Erin, you hit the nail right on the head. It’s that fight and eternal struggle of what you really want to do vs. what you have to do. I’m afraid of resenting the things that I have to do because I miss out on the things that I want to do. And that’s no way to live your life. Being brave and taking the steps toward your Pie in the Sky wishes is all easy to say on your blog but much much harder to put into action. I’ve been so impressed by the steps you’ve taken toward achieving your dreams – know you’re an example out there for those of us who are trying to reach for the stars

  • My reply wasn’t finished! I wanted to say:

    I feel like writing, like any artistic outlet, is something that lives in your heart or your soul. Almost like a parasite, it latches on and roots itself IN you. It may lie dormant for awhile, but eventually it comes out again. I’ll paraphrase Harry Potter here – the things you love never really leave you. Feel blessed that writing has come back to you, and don’t think of “sitting around writing” as something that isn’t paying the bills. You’re cashing (depositing?) huge checks to your self-esteem bank, your identity bank, your fulfillment bank.

    Those are the ones that count. I twiddle my thumbs wondering when I’ll pick up that violin I played for 10 years every day, or when I’ll write another scene. You’re lucky. BE lucky. Feel happy.

    Also, sorry that all my comments always end up being like “Well LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT ME!!!” – I’m working on it.

  • so beautiful erin. your honesty, that bit that is from your soul, is one of the many things that makes you such a beautiful writer. you uncover and expose something that everyone can relate to and it’s not an easy thing to do without exposing too much or going on for days. so none of these anecdotal stories of your writing career surprise me. i think that story about the boy and the tree has the makings of a fabulous children’s book!

    i think you are lucky to know what you want, what your talent is and where that feeling of passion mixed with the feeling of home lies for you. just take your little notebook with you everywhere and write, write, write. i keep myself busy all the time because i work from home and it’s a slippery slope if i relax too much, it is quite possible that i could sit on my couch one day and get up a month later and not notice. so, like lauren said, i think fighting for that time is almost a positive – not forever but maybe right now. anyway it reminds you how much you want it.

    for me, i am still figuring it all out. i always knew i wanted to be a mom so i definitely do not take that role for granted. i also have always loved to create things so i feel lucky to be in a place where i can and feel comfortable enough to claim that as my work, my job. but where is that place that means i am doing my grown-up work? i have no flipping idea! but i feel i am at least on the path and that’s a pretty sweet feeling. you are too and i am so excited to see what happens for you! because now not only can i say, “oh yeah, i totally know her,” i can say “that’s my twin, b*tches!” xoxo

  • Ah what a touching post Erin, I’m very glad you’ve started writing and isn’t that brilliant that it’s the blog that led on to that. it was meant to be.
    I’m with Lauren (as always!). I image few writers get their first book deal by writing full time, they all seem to have had full time jobs. Look at Dickens! It will happen one day but for now you need to get it sent off to lots of agents. If you need any help let me know as I have someone doing the same thing, has been for years, and could give you lots of sage advice.
    Alternatively you could just write some smut, 50 shades woman published on the internet and look at her now! x

  • Oh, Erin I loved this post! Finding your passion and also following it is a huge step in the right direction. It is so great to be able to follow you on that journey. You have to sign your book(s) for me when you are a famous writer topping the NY times bestseller list.

    While growing up my wishes of what I wanted to be changed constantly, from dreaming about becoming a rockstar (as if ), becoming a veterinarian etc. and by the end of high school I wanted to be a carpenter/cabinet maker. I think this is why I love restoring furniture because I never realized that dream and studied interior design instead. Not that I am unhappy with that choice ;)

  • I read this post right before I had to leave for Eames’ Tball practice and have been thinking about it ever since. As you know, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about my purpose and what I want to be when I grow up. I can tell you with 100% confidence that by simply knowing your purpose, half the battle is already won. Now, you can devote all of your talent to this effort without any question or doubt. (It’s definitely better than being lost.)
    I’ve been talking to a very wise woman lately and she’s been giving me the best advice about this period of my life. To my detriment, I can be a very means-to-and-end type of person and have a hard time doing something just for the fun of it. I have to trust that this is my time to explore and live the questions, even when it leads me in a random/unexpected direction. Your path is more intentional and direct, but I’m hoping you can trust that all of it – every experience – will be worthwhile in the end. xo

  • […] I want to thank all of you for your kind and incredibly supportive and uplifting comments yesterday. I promise I wasn’t compliment fishing when I wrote that post (to be fair, I didn’t […]

  • You go girl! It’s all coming together so nicely for you and one day you will be doing it full time, we all believe that as I’m sure you do too. You write so well you deserve all the success when that day comes and you get a publishing deal, we will all be behind you. I’m so glad you’ve found your groove x