I’m going to be the next big thing.
That’s what we all tell ourselves, as we create our social media accounts, as we define our blogs, as we emulate what everyone else is doing, has done or will do. We live in an age of ideas, where the smallest nugget can land you on Shark Tank with a six-figure investment and an influx of sales. Start-ups pop up like cavities in children. Everyone is an entrepreneur. (Remember the days when quitting your job to pursue your dream was just something you didn’t do?)
As we ditch our safe jobs to take wobbly steps to exciting, uncharted careers, we have paved the path where forging your own way is the norm. The financier who becomes a furniture maker. The corporate maven who becomes an eco lifestyle expert. We all read these stories and think: So can I.
As we make connections and expand our networks and get subscribers and followers, it all means that success is coming for us, because it’s our time. Right? Because we’ve taken the risk, done the work, made the jump… Now we too can be another success story splashed across local media sites!!!!!!
Well, here’s my truth, something I’ve struggled with time and time again: I’m a writer. A straight-up paper sniffing, ink-stained fingered, obsessively-ruminating-over-everything-that-moves writer. I’ve written hundreds of thousands of pages in my life, some read, some celebrated, some published and some hidden away in dusty drawers. But I don’t care if or when I have an audience.
Because I just want to write. (Which is part of the problem.)
Here’s the rub: To be a writer today means so much more than putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). It means building a brand, being seen, having a huge audience who follows your every move. Having a million likes. Putting yourself out there. Again and again and again. Content that goes viral. Finding followers. Keeping followers. Building massive networks. Staying relevant. Getting paid to do what you love. Being promoted. Landing TV spots. Landing radio spots. Landing speaking engagements. Building that database. Hustling. Being the expert in a land of experts where your expertise is better than all the other expertise of all the experts out there.
The art form has become the least of it. (I mean, if the Kardashians can “write” books, we’re all in fucking trouble, am I right??)
All I’ve ever wanted is to spend every summer in a little house on Cape Cod, windows thrust open, the sea breeze on my skin, penning novels. Delicious novels, where time lapses, and all I can think about is how to get my characters from point A to point B in the most exciting but plausible way possible.
During the year, I would live in the city, in a giant loft that overlooks Fulton Market, the hum of my espresso machine making its third round as I get ready for book launch after book launch (gently blowing the ink dry as I pen my John Hancock on every first page of my crisp new hardbacks). I am glamorous and relaxed in this fantasy. I am super Mommy, star wife, award-winning writer. I am in impossibly good shape and in even better health. I get 8.5 hours of sleep every night, have sex exactly five times a week, eat anything I want and—gasp!—don’t gain an ounce. I read three books a week, make all of my family’s food from scratch, get plenty of sunshine, am impossibly flexible, have gaggles of friends I see numerous times per week, am hands-on at my daughter’s school (which is the best in the city, of course) and pretty much have a life created by Pinterest.
Because that’s the expectation. Don’t just be a writer. Don’t just be a business owner. Don’t just be a mother. Be more! Do more! Have it all and then have more! Because that’s who we are: super humans who can’t just want the simple life. Because that’s boring, right? (Despite the fact that we’re all getting just a wee bit hysterical.)
I understand the way that momentum has to happen. You catch a big break. You make the right connection. You get the right followers. But that’s never felt natural to me. Because the work is the easy part for me. Give me a subject, and I will turn it inside out, devour it, dismantle it and put it back together in some way that feels wholly right to me.
But the other places are where I struggle. The promotion. The marketing. The constant audience hustle. To make a great living writing for a big audience means it’s no longer about the writing. But that’s what I want. Whether it’s my own experiences, health and wellness, or characters that live only in my head, that is the life I want. To write. And read. And share. And write some more.
Slowly, I am taking steps to get there. Because I’ve written the books, but I’ve still yet to write the books I want to write with the audience that comes naturally in a way that feels…anything but forced.
I think, if we can, we all have to find that pebble that makes us do the things we want and need to do, the pebbles that keep us up at night, that give us the energy we can’t possibly glean from anywhere else.
I know what my pebbles are. I know where they come from. I know, when I’m invested, that I have no concept of time or space or reality. My fingers are moving, my mind is humming, and I’m living on purpose. With purpose. With a clear, defined intention.
When I’m writing, I feel good. I feel at home. I feel connected.
Because this is the way I want to feel.
It’s time to get aligned. To get focused.
And that focus, to me, means doing just enough to be happy. It means doing what feels right, even if that’s only to you.
I say, just for a moment, forget expectations. Crack open that dusty book of longing. Revisit what you’ve always wanted to do/be/say. Trim up the edges. Give it a bath.
And then…dream your dream.