Countless people aspire to be successful writers (The Many), but of all of those, only a small percentage will make it (The Few). Why won’t The Many make it? They get side-tracked and wander in circles in The Land of Good Enough. One of the largest problems with The Many? The Many believe in “Safety, first.” They trade short-term thrills for long-term happiness. They are often depressed, overweight, stressed because, on some level, they feel in their souls that they sold out.
And they would be correct.
I’m not judging The Many. I spent over a third of my life among them in the Land of Good Enough. The Land of Good Enough is an easy place to end up. In fact, most of us live there at least a time or two in life.
It’s the breaking free that’s the trick.
The Land of Good Enough is the realm of paycheck-to-paycheck living, dead end jobs that suck away our souls, routine, safety and predictability. It’s a place where we settle when we are too scared to step onto our sacred path and dare to see if we have what it takes to be a real artist.
Most people aren’t even aware they live in The Land of Good Enough. They dull the pain with food, TV, addiction and drama. They need all kinds of artificial stimulation because they have traded authentic passion for the Devil’s shill. It makes me think of a C.S. Lewis quote:
The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Of course, when I use the term “Hell” I’m not referring to a fiery inferno where bad people go to be stabbed for all eternity with pitchforks. I am referring to the very real hell many people live in, the hell I barley escaped and that I still must guard against every day. Most of us don’t even realize we’ve landed in hell until we are already there.
And that is the scary part.
When I was in sales, I had to pull over every day to throw up. I hated my job THAT much. But become a writer? Are you nuts?
Really? Just, really Kristen. Because puking every day because of stress was so awesome. NOT.
Many of us follow the rules and listen to our teachers and what Madison Avenue tells us and we don’t realize that the landscape is sloping gently downward and the temperature is slowly rising.
In this type of Hell, The Many die even while they’re still breathing. They become the walking dead, those who go through the motions, not yet dead but never really living. They are caffeinated, medicated zombies who have traded safety for their very soul. The Land of Good Enough makes me think of the line from The Sixth Sense:
I see dead people. Walking around like regular people. They don’t see each other. They only see what they want to see. They don’t know they’re dead. All the time. They’re everywhere.
The Many live in a delusion, they don’t know they’re dead. In their minds, they are practical, safe, and normal (and have a great job in sales *head desk*).
Creatives seem to be particularly vulnerable to getting stuck in The Land of Good Enough and that is why it is on my list of Enemies of the Art. We face different hurdles that other professions and I feel our journey from amateur hobbyist to professional is more fraught with danger than any other field. The price is also higher. Yes, many people will settle in The Land of Good Enough, and it is a personal purgatory. But, for Creatives, the Land of Good Enough is far more insidious.
True artists don’t create because we can, but because we must. When we are disconnected from the muse, we die a deeper death than most, and what makes us different is that when we die, we are not the only ones who suffer. The world suffers. The world our unspoken art failed to change.
Embrace the Resistance!
The Land of Good Enough is an easy place to get lost. This is why we must fight. Write goals, revise goals. Have friends that will send in the flying monkeys if we don’t hold to deadlines. Press. Keep pressing and understand the pressing never ever stops. That’s what we sign up for when we strive to be excellent in out craft.
But it’s worth it ;).
Have you been trapped in The Land of Good Enough? How did you break free? Are you still struggling there? Why are you afraid to step away? I love hearing from you!
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Again, I LOVE hearing from you…
To prove it and show my love, for the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of February I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
Amen to that, it’s a killer land which robs your off your creative spark, that makes you feel alive.
I see many of my friends going that route, because they don’t believe they’ll make it as a creative.
It’s sad, because they’ll turn into frustrated Zombies later on when they get older.
It’s all about courage and self-discipline – can you accept years of less money and uncertainty in order to trail your own path and create a thriving creative life ?
Most peeps can’t.
Ah, Kristen. Another timely post. Just what I needed today. I quit my day job five months ago, not just to write, but just to get out. It was a job I hated for ten years, but didn’t leave because it was ‘safe.’ Never mind the almost daily migraines, the upset stomach every morning, or the heart palpitations. I had a regular job. Lately, I’ve been second-guessing the decision to leave because I’m not in a better place financially. But since I left the day job, the migraines and heart palpitations are gone. Gone! Thanks for this post and for making me feel better about taking that leap, even if I wasn’t sure what I was leaping in to.
“Because puking every day because of stress was so awesome. NOT.” – Best. Line. Ever.
And as much as I agree with you, I’m still not ready to quit my day job that I love so much (at least in public).
GREAT blog and so true…however, there is a point where you have to do whatever it takes to feed your kids, which may include working some crappy job. I was in corporate making hugs bucks and wanted to kill myself every day I hated it so much. Now I work from home and write as much as I can but when the books don’t sell I can’t afford food and rent. I have put everything on the line for this dream and now I’m faced with going back to corporate just to survive. I wonder how many others have lived fearlessly, gone after those dreams and when they didn’t happen…then what? Maybe I’ll be the next J.K. Rowling living out of my car only to find uber success…and what if I’m not? The bigger part of me says “just ignore it and keep going” but at some point the universe has to open a door and help out a bit. What happens after you write the books, build the platform, blog your ass off and the books still don’t sell? I can’t imagine I’m the only one who has faced this dilemma…
This particular post reminds me of a book by Elaine Aron called the ‘Highly Sensitive Person’. I think most creatives fall into that category, but today’s standards don’t let us become who we should be. I think that’s where we become the zombies, its that inner fight of being who we were meant to be instead of being who everyone wants us to be. I see it all the time in architecture. Wonderfully talented artists apply for a degree in it, because they are convinced that they can be creative and have some professional merit to throw their hat on. What they don’t realize, is there is far more to it than ‘design’ and they end up throwing up, every day a little, because they don’t want to do it any more. I love, both architecture and writing, because they feed 2 sides of my soul and bring me balance. But I cannot have one without the other…
This is really a scary piece for me, because I am there and I’ve fallen and am trying to get up. The only thing I have going for me is my age…I’m not getting younger and mortality has finality. So either I get up and out…or I’m doomed to the abyss. Thanks for posting this…I will read it again as a reminder.
I’m fighting to get out of the most insidious career there is: One of easy hours, no stress, good pay, and soft deadlines. My family thinks I’m an idealistic fool. Whatever. I’m running for the fence.
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Oh, Kristen… Thank you. I’ve been summarily booted out of the Land of Good Enough three times over the past five years. That’s three lay-offs from three different jobs, the third time occurring just this past Thursday. I get it, and yet I fight the fear, and the fearful words of friends and family from the Land of Good Enough. “There’s a job fair this Friday. Great timing, right?” My stomach clutches and tears threaten at the thought.
I’m better than good enough. I’m better than good enough. I’m better than good enough.
Love this post although as someone who left the job they hated for a life of creative freedom and is now wondering how we’re going to survive financially I do think it’s worth checking what the cost of jumping ship might be. I left my ‘career’ shortly before having kids, not realising there is almost no way back in once you have had kids… I don’t (really) regret it but I might have made a different decision five years ago if I had known the reality. Now the ‘daily grind’ is trying to make money writing because my options making money any other way are severely limited…
I needed to hear this today. What is it about needing to hear something and then it appears to you. I’m stuck in the land of the barely living. I’m creative and writing but my passion is sucked out by the daily grind of my life of dodging chairs being thrown at my head.
I’m worried about what Jennifer is saying. At some point I will have to go back to the sucky job to make ends meet, but I am so ready to leave the job to try my chance at flying. Right now I’m standing on the cliff afraid to jump.
How do I know when I should jump and what if I fall?
Oh, Kristen, you poor thing. What a miserable experience for you. I’m so glad you got yourself out of it – especially since you are now helping the rest of us so much!
Like many of your other commenters, this is oh-so-timely for me. Just as I drove up to the house after dropping off the youngest to school this morning, seeing how few cars were still in the neighborhood because they were off to their jobs, I was wondering why the heck I’m doing this, and if my friends and neighbors wonder about the wacky lady who thinks she can make a living out of writing but isn’t anywhere close to that. Not earning Social Security (not that it’s much these days), no 401K, nothing for my old age. Fortunately, we have a wage-earner in the house who is supportive of my work, but it’s still scary stuff.
Thanks for the encouragement! 😀
This is so true. I find myself getting comfortable and safe with my steady paycheck and benefits, then realize I suddenly have too much in common with zombies and get back to studying writing or actually writing. Between tasks of course. My determination grows every day to escape the bonds I’ve made for myself.
Hi I’m Tim, and I’m still a zombie. Working hard to kick the habit.
Hi Kristen. An encouraging post indeed. Thank you! Writing is something I’ve dreamt of since my early years, but this year, I’ve made a resolution. I’m determined to succeed. To actually submit it! Thank you for the inspiration to move on!
After being laid off several years ago, I wrote my first novel. Now I’m back to working a corporate job, but the heavens truly smiled on me because this is without doubt, hands down, the best job I’ve ever had. Yes, there is some stress, but nowhere near the amount I’ve had at other jobs. I have enough time for writing too…amazingly! The only real cut to my time is my online time…blog/twitter/etc.
Then we have the other issue, those who did quit, who did succeed, but who are now zombies in the land of creation, churning out “good enough” to keep their sales up and wondering why it’s not quite as much fun as it used to be.
The coolest part? I believe you. And I’m going to do it. I’ll even put your name in the front under “This book couldn’t have been possible without…” 🙂
Great post! The problem with the Land of Good Enough is that it can be nearly impossible to leave. Those of us who are the Walking Dead often cannot figure out how to come back to life. We are stuck for a reason, especially when we have become disconnected from our Muse. Reconnecting and moving forward is not as easy as it sounds.
I think your point is an excellent one, but I also think that we can have both–for a while. Many successful writers are holding down day jobs and climbing the writing charts. Sometimes knowing exactly how much time we have to write each day can be helpful, because we know our butt must be in chair for those hours, or no writing will happen. I taught full time, attended all the ridiculous trainings and classes teachers must have to retain their jobs, and managed to publish three books in twelve months. I did give up a lot of movie time, and never knew what my friends were talking about when they mentioned TV series, but it was worth it.
I’m a full time romance writer now, and feeling the strain of believing in myself while we live on savings and my small paychecks. I’m taking off into self-publishing, and believe I’ll do well once I get the backlist built up. But I have the luxury that my children are grown, and rent is free since we’re living with my widowed mom.
Not to be a killjoy, but for those with young children to guide through life, with the cost of insurance alone, I’d say take the safe route and build your career a bit at a time. Readers are not going away, and you can take the leap when you’re ready.
I know, I sound like such a Mom. Well, I am one. Too, Mona Karel, above, has a point. We are as happy as we make up our minds to be in any situation, and writing can be a chore just like any job if we let it. Writers are a sensitive bunch, and we need balance in our lives.
I kept my day job for a long time. But a day job used to support the bigger dream is no longer in the realm of The Land of Good Enough. There is renewed purpose and the end goal is to create, to make art, not merely draw a paycheck and exist. We can reframe the day job in hopes that one day writing will take its place. It’s what I did. I continued working in sales another 2 years, then became a copy editor and tech writer. Few things will make you want to hurl yourself into a wood chipper like hours writing software instructions. BUT, I could do it because the job was now the MEANS and NOT the ENDS.
The whole post was great, but that clarification was priceless. Broke is stressful whether it’s for a good cause or not. Working yourself out of a day job can give the flexibility to create because you can afford to both eat and write. Downsizing to a “bridge” job (less stressful or part time) might be a better fit for some. In my case I “graduated” (retired) from the stressful day job, drawing a pension that’s somewhat less than the employment produced and get to run a growing Christian school (25 students so far) as my day job (OK, I’m secretly building an audience for my books by making sure these kids can READ!). The combination yields a bit more time to write, freedom from the kind of stress that kept creativity at bay, and a healthy dose of financial pressure to produce income from writing. The information and encouragement from the whole WANA community has given me “permission” to see writing as a “must do” rather than a “maybe I’ll get to someday”. The current day job is a “calling” in this case I wouldn’t want to give up, but it also dovetails well with writing.
I love this blog. Everyday I look forward to it and today was no different. I wasn’t throwing up in my previous job, but my stomach hurt everyday and I hated the drive. I took the plunge and took a different job, although it paid less. I don’t regret doing this. I don’t dread coming to work and because I’m not obsessing about my previous job, my creativity is flying and I can write more. I have a deadline on how long I plan to stay in this job and my goals are to write, write, write. The plunge is hard like you said, but I didn’t want to be the Walking Dead, just because the paycheck was good.
Hearing stories like this make me thank God every day that I have a “day job” I adore and couldn’t live without. Even if my books take off and I am the next “big thing”, I would still teach. I’ve never felt that crushing dead weight of my job sucking the life out of me. Like writing, science fuels my passion and gets me as excited as a teenage girl at a Justin Bieber concert 🙂
Still. Stuck. In. Good Enough Land. But making it work. I have recently found that a schedule – who would have thought such a simple thing was such a good idea – of set times to sit and write helps me focus, and blogs like yours. I’m hoping for the long and fruitful retirement when I can have time to write more, more, more.
I used to be stuck in The land Of Good Enough, but I realized that good enough wasn’t getting me anywhere. Now, I write every day (except sat and sun sometimes) and I treat writing books at home in my pajamas as a career, not something I kinda sorta do when I’m feeling in the mood.
I hope to never visit TLOGE again…it’s not woth it.
Thanks for your wisdom and for the quotes. Loved the C.S. Lewis one.
Have a great week!!
“True artists don’t create because we can, but because we must” is such an important distinction. What is life without art? If that question is on the lips of any artist, then any day job is temporary or merely the means, as you have stated. Yet, there is still that final break with the rest of the world for the world of one’s dreams.
For me, a day without writing is a day that just never quite starts. It took far too many years and too much of my health before I finally pulled my other leg out of the Land of Good Enough. Not surprisingly, I am healthier at 60 than I was at 40, and it is a rarity for me to miss a day of writing. Imagine that….
Definitely one of your finest essays, Kristen, cogent, honest, inspiring. Made my Monday. Thanks!
Been There. Done That. Finally Free to Write
Kristen,you know this is my battle. Again and again. It’s hard to keep putting yourself out there. I’ve applied for multiple other jobs and haven’t even gotten interviews because places are getting 200+ applicants, and what does my resume look like now…all sales! Like so many of your other commenters, I’m worried about finances. My parents, nor my boyfriend, are in a position to help me out, so leaving a job I hate without a back up plan is the scariest thing I could do. I’ve recently made some changes to re-create my attitude about my job. It’s not so much the work, as it is the boss who is a total soul-suck. If I can feel pride in my work and partner with other team members for encouragement, I may survive. And like Tamara above, I have to start treating writing like a real career too and not just when I feel like it.
So happy you’re having Candace Havens speak at WANAcon because she was the biggest inspiration to me at DFW last year. She works a lot and makes it work for her. I love her Fast Draft process and her rules for writing.
Thanks for a timely post!
I’m still there, working part-time in my day job, but I need it for the bills – and for some sanity. I think I really can’t write what I write without mingling with others fairly consistently and being exposed to people’s quirks (especially quirks) and strangers’ lives. I grouse constantly about not writing full-time, but as I write niche fiction (and I mean super niche fiction), my earning capacity’s limited, and I need to fall back on something. And I honestly don’t know if I can pull off what I’m now doing without hanging out with people at work; I’m just grateful that my day job is also in the creative field, and my co-workers are all artists in some way or other, and I love them.
That’s very similar to the sermon at the weekend about getting out of shallow water and moving to the deep end. Very inspiring! I’ve had my book budget slashed 🙁 and can’t go to the poetry workshop I wanted to go on, so I’m exploring new avenues this year. It will be a year of change for sure.
my daughter told me she would hate the world of cubicles, and she is off to art school.
At least she dared to chase her passion. Eventually business acumen will be important, but that doesn’t come first.
Thanks for the encouragement. I can always count on reading your entries for a good kick in the ass!
You are so right that the day job that supports your dream is not in the Land of Good Enough. I was a nurse for 44 years and for most of that time I wrote. For the last twenty something years I’ve been writing for publication and I’ve been successful in many ways — nothing big, but very satisfying. Now that I’m retired I’m working at my “dream job” – writing.
I’m sending this blog to my nephew…a musician and artist who’s working three jobs and relaxes with his creativity.
This reminds me of a quote I read just the other day from Norman Cousins. “The tragedy of life is not death but what we let die inside of us while we live.” Most of us need to spend time in the Land of Good Enough – most of us need to eat and pay rent after-all. The important thing is to not let it consume us and leave us without the energy or wherewithal to continue to engage in our ‘art’ – whatever form that takes.
Great post Kristen
So true what you said…”never really living”. One thing I have learned about myself is I will never be a full time employee unless it’s self-employed on my own terms. I’m a creative type and want a life to truly be able to live life. I’m a nurse and still work some as a nurse(less than part-time), but it’s not the main part of my life. I’ve always centered my life around family. Things are changing as time always has a way of doing and I don’t know how things will go. I do know I love to create…be it writing, cooking, or my many crafty interests(especially crochet). Still working on discovering my path.
Excellent post that really hits home. And I love the quotes you used to reinforce your point. I am not in the Land of Good Enough though; I suffer in the Land of Self-Doubt, but I’m working on it.
I’ve had those sales jobs where I had to pull over to throw up. It took me waaay too long to realize my art was more than a hobby. It’s scary but so is going hungry. If I hadn’t been married I probably wouldn’t have taken the time needed to reveal the art inside. But then again…it kind of came screaming out when it wanted to.
Love your blog!
Paycheck to paycheck sucked my soul for way too many years so the hubs could pursue his dream. Not sorry I did so, he was very happy. That being said, he used to race motorcycles and build cafe racers. Built one for a guy who loved to race, but had to run behind the truck to throw up before every race. Even doing something you love can inspire fear. Thanks for the kick in the butt.
When I am bored, it’s a dangerous place to be . . . so I try not to be bored.
Loved loved the movie quote “I see dead people” – nice, apt, powerful.
This post and the earlier “burn your boats” one strike home for me, because my job not only steals the bulk of my waking hours and saps my mental energy but also involves prettying up the words of unappreciative non-writers who are nonetheless getting published. Oh yeah, I’m bitter. 🙂 But I have solid reasons for staying. I was clinically depressed long before I entered the working world, and the structure and social interaction of the job are good for me… as is the health insurance. And I got really tired of living hand-to-mouth as a teacher; having money I can spend on writing conferences and nice cover art for my books is pretty awesome. It’s a trade-off, of course, and every day I wonder if this is the day I’m going to walk out. But for my own sanity, I need to get something very structured in place before I do. I’d venture to say that for some creative people, having the soul-sucking job can be quite useful. If nothing else, it makes my writing a rebellious act, which sometimes is just the incentive I need to keep at it.
I always resented the time that a job stole from me.
I coincidentally found this today:
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”- Helen Keller
Say NO to the fancy car, the trendy designer clothes, the house you can’t afford. We are a consumer-driven society where the poor stay poor, the middle class struggles to keep afloat and the rich just keep cleaning up. I have made an effort to modify my life so that I’m not bowing down to “Madison Avenue” telling me what I need. What little we do everyday to resist will be felt both in our pocketbooks and our minds. It frees us to take up other things with all that energy – like diving in headfirst to our writing goals!
I’m right there with you!!
When you love what you do and pursue it with all you have (if it’s a viable business), the money you need to survive will come. When you live your passion every day, the need to have the latest this or the newest that becomes null and void.
At least some people have you to show them the way, Kristen.
You could tip the balance in favor of many of us.
This concludes my love letter to the goddess mortal men refer to as Kirsten Lamb…
Great post. Great timing.
We really must strive for excellence. As the saying goes, reach for the moon & you’ll at least end up with the stars.
Great post. Life is too short to coast in the Land of Good Enough. Striving to follow dreams, no matter what they might be, is the way to go. Then you can look back and say, “I did it my way.”
Great post! This was such a pleasure to read. “The Land of the Good Enough” – great way to put a concept. Thanks for sharing!
“The world our unspoken art failed to change.” Love that line. And so true.
I’ve read this post a few times now, and I thought I’d toss in my two cents: I’m someone who, for all intents and purposes lives in the Land of Good Enough, but only because it pays the bills. It’s a compromise I’m willing to make in order to give me the tools I need to continue my writing. I refuse to allow complacency to get in my way of achieving my goals of becoming a published writer. My wife knows this, and is very supportive, as are my friends. I don’t think one has to fully abandon living in the Land of Good Enough to become a real artist; being a real artist comes from within, no matter where you live.
Anyway, I’ve reblogged your post, and I hope you’d get a chance to read it and give me your feedback on my opinion. You run a great blog, and this is by far my favorite post of yours so far. Great work!
Thanks for the reblog and again, having a day job doesn’t mean we are settling in the Land of Good Enough. It’s when the day job becomes everything because we are afraid. THAT is the soul-stealing part.
It would help if I posted the link, no?
Great post. Took the gentle path. The new one is a bit more scary but just as much fun.
Wow, what a post. There are few horror stories that have scared me more than this. I’m only 22, is there any way to recognise if you’re on the path to The Land of Good Enough?
It was a good read. When I was taking French II in high school, I had to translate NO EXIT from French to English.
“No Exit (French: Huis Clos) is a 1944 existentialist French play by Jean-Paul Sartre.” – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia on the Internet (excellent for research for writers).
The class was taught existentialism “hell”. It was like you had to push a rock up a hill. If you could push the rock up the hill and over the cliff, you could leave “hell” and you could go to “heaven”. But the devil fixed it. The rock will fall back down and you have to start all over again eternally.
I asked; why would I keep pushing the rock up the hill if the devil fixed it. What was the devil going to do, kill me again? Physical pain or mental anguish, when I already knew I was dead?
I am not at existentialism “hell” so I push the rock up the hill. Finishing the novel makes it a shorter climb to the cliff. Sending it to publishers is even higher up to the top of the hill. – Daniel Escurel Occeno
Reblogged this on sharonholly and commented:
It’s official. I’m a zombie.
Indeed! most people go through life in a haze, like zombies.
My book is about waking up, so I know. You are right!
I’m a zombie living in Proofreader Hell – it’s where you have to read boring, poorly written material for all of eternity – while being stabbed repeatedly in the eyeball with pitchfork.
Sounds like Writer Hell to me. LOL. Used to do editing. No mas.
I may have settled into a day job that I’m good at and even enjoy, but it’s not as bad as it was when I was here: “When we are disconnected from the muse, we die a deeper death than most….”
You said exactly what I was not even 5 years ago–an absolute zombie. I’m so glad I reconnected with my muse.
I have a day job that I’m falling out of love with. When I was a trainer, I loved it. Now that I’m a training coordinator, I’m beginning to seek a way out, but I can’t leave yet. Golden Handcuffs, baby.
I have debt to pay off and, sadly, I wear the metaphorical, bringing-home-the-bacon pants in the family. I couldn’t drop the interim burden on my man. I write as I can and for now, it is good enough, because it has to be.
It may not be perfect, but it’s what I got and damn if I don’t make the most of it 🙂
I’m really guilty. Thanks for pointing out that there is better “land” out there. For me, pardon the cliche’, “It’s now or never.”
“Press. Keep pressing and understand the pressing never ever stops. That’s what we sign up for when we strive to be excellent in out craft.” — This is so true. It’s when we let the outside world — whether it’s a job, family stress, or bills — consume us and kill our passion that we become The Many.
Keep moving forward despite the setbacks and resistance, and never settle for Good Enough again.
Right on, Kristen. BTW, I’m looking forward to WANACon.
I got the first part (leaving an unfulfilling job), but am having difficulty with the second part (spending the time away from writing to do the “publishing/marketing” part). I love writing so much (“must do it”), that my good intentions of marketing take a distant second place. Four novel manuscripts and two books worth of short stories later, the thrill of creating still drives me. (My critique groups love the readings.) It feels like the marketing part is going back to the old job mind-set. What’s a guy hooked on creating to do?, other than see a shrink.
I’m always torn because security is something I’ve never had and a part of me wants it so much, wants someone near to tell me it’s okay. It was an illusion, of course, because when I found security it was empty and hollow and filled with toxic people. And then my life fell apart anyway. My marriage ended, I was struck down with an ongoing disease, I lost my job, and when I cleared the toxic people out of my life I realized there wasn’t anyone left. Through it all and since the beginning there’s been writing and I’m determined to do as much as I can with it. I despise where I work and the town I live in (too many memories), but I’m clawing my way back up that slope. I’m close to finishing my novel and I recently started a writer’s page on FB and a site here on WP. Each day I cry for a few minutes and then I carry on. Thank you for this posting, for it was timely.
Wow. I’m usually a reader, not a commenter (because…ahem…you have a bajilion commenters. 😉 But I just wanted to let you know how awesome and much-needed this post is. I’ve been considering telling my boss I have to go to 4 days a week instead of 5 because I’m becoming sleep deprived from trying to fit work, family, life and writing all in. And I refuse to sacrifice writing.
My husband has been supportive, in that I don’t have a day-job to help with the finances, but he can’t resist an occasional jab, about those households that have TWO incomes… It hurts, but I keep plodding along, wanting someday to add a large check into the bank account. My first royalty check came this week of $77.72. I related to your blog about your first one just enough for tacos. If my husband and I REALLY needed the money, I would reconsider, but since his pension is adequate for a good life, I guess he’s just going to have to suffer! (*tee-hee*)
Many people in my writer’s group of over 150 members are as you describe and are putting out self published stuff that isn’t good enough. I’m reading a James Rollins novel right now, in his acknowledgement the first people he thanks are his critique partners. Meanwhile and editor I work for in freelance land is still writing poor fiction as he knows it all. An artist can never stop perfecting art. An artist that knows it all is no artist at all.
Really needed to hear this today. I’m working on my 1st historical romantic suspense novel and I’m working with a professional editor right now and it’s a good thing. Because there is so much I need to learn. I really want to be a great writer…so working hard at it. Everyday:) Thanks for this post 🙂
January 27 of 2012 I resigned my day high paying information technology day job of thirteen years. I “semi-retired”. “Semi-retirement” was leaving the day job to retire at age fifty nine while deferring the retirement pay to age sixty-five/six. I had sufficient income and savings along with lack of debt to live without financial stress. My goal? Write! I have been freelancing with sales since 1981. It is a year later and I accepted an offer to return to my previous employer. They contacted me. Here is what happened and my lessons learned in the interim.
1. People think you are nuts to quite a high paying job.
2. People think you’re nuts when you have the discipline to write and submit on a structured schedule. I placed eighteen pieces in the 9 months of “semi-retirement” as well as having a publisher ask to see the entire manuscript of my novel. I had my blog syndicated by a publisher – they picked up my book reviews and have me as a contributing book reviewer.
3. People kept thinking of writing as a hobby or a midlife crisis I would get over … especially my wife of 38 years.
4. Even with sufficient income, my wife and grown children stressed on the lack of a regular paycheck.
5. I returned to work when my daughter and her husband both became unemployed. I helped with their rent and utilities to keep them and my granddaughter from having to move in with me. I was much more employable and had three times been asked to return to my day job.
6. I was happy, fulfilled, and on mission when writing full time, but now am back to stealing and craving more time to write.
7. My family and wife think I have come back to my senses.
8. I’ll have the last laugh as I continue to write, submit, place articles and poems. I’ll be leaving the land of enough in the future returning to the few.
I’ve been reading your posts for a long time now, and they’re always very insightful. But this one hit home in a big way. I work in sales right now, living paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve been struggling so hard to get on top of things financially that I’ve failed to write anything creatively for months because of the stress. I didn’t even realize what was happening until I read this. Thank you for opening my eyes. It’s good to know that I don’t have to stay here in this wretched Land of Good Enough.
I so feel for you. You can do it. Baby steps are steps. I didn’t just get out right away. I planned my escape ;). If I did it, anyone can, LOL. GO YOU!
You planned your escape. Okay, I thought; you were encouraging to wake up one morning and drop out of college two weeks before final exam. Give a two-week notice first or have a backup plan to have some kind of livable income. Those in sales know it takes time to develop a contact list what more to get the percentage sales and you need a source of income to eat daily and travel unless you are in telemarketing, so getting paid writing for articles and short stories and for novels would probably take longer. I have been told years and try like more than a decade, to be paid a livable source of income. But the true writer will struggle on.
Kristen, I love your posts. Every one is so insightful! Luckily, I’m an outlier on this one. I’m a math lab instructor at a local college, and I truly love my students. It doesn’t even feel like I’m going to work. And the good part of it is, I engage the other side of my brain with the math, and I give the creative side a break. This is really useful when I’m brought up short during a scene and I can’t figure out where to go next. I just start doing equations or class prep and after a little while, my creative brain knocks and says, “Hi, I’m back!”
The only stress I get at work is from a couple of the idiots I work with. Luckily, that’s minimal. I am planning my escape, though. My fingers are flying on my keyboard, and I’m developing a list of private students. We’ll see how it goes.
Great post. Almost inspired me to quit my job (but I think I’ll wait until the end of the school year, as previously planned).
Generally, I’m stuck in The Land of NOT Good Enough, meaning that someday when I think my writing is good enough, I’ll commit to doing it full time. It’s a very sad place to be.
As much as I KNEW this in my heart….it was VERY good to actually see it. I’ve been struggling with the fact that people think that I don’t have a “real job” because I’m working very hard to get a book out to the masses. What I need to remember is that anything that you do an be a “real job”….it might not be the job that everyone considers “real”….but it IS real. Thank you for posting this.
To be honest, I’m in the middle of being sucked into it. In a few months I have to decide what I’m going to be doing from now on. I’m aiming for medical school, but I might change my mind and go for some sciency stuff instead … but then I know I’m no good at the practical stuff in a laboratory. And my theory isn’t that great, either.
It’s horrible, because I’m obviously going to make a choice that brings me to an end where I will never be my very best, because it’s just not there my skills are.
I’m seriously pondering taking off a year to just write. But where to get the money? There are no jobs!
I decided against Medical School before my undergrad because I did not think I could handle getting mostly A(s) in Science and Math while at college. If you are capable of studying and can handle the course work, give it a shot. A Pre-Med in Chemistry or Biology will still land you a good job. Be a writer after you had years and years of life experiences. Medical Romances are hot.
Ugh, medical romances would never be my genre 😛
I’m definitely going to get an education for the experience in any case, and get a job also for the experience, but the question still is: where to put my heart? In the pursuit of a stable job, or the writing? If my future is in writing I should probably take the year off …
In any case I am working on those grades. If I don’t get good enough grades for medical school I’ll take the medical chemistry instead 😉
Just budget your time and do both, write and study your interests. I am trying to save up for a tablet P.C. so I could write anywhere. You could use it for school to take notes or write homework assignments, provided the tablet has print capabilities and you can print it at Internet Cafes on college campuses. I have an old laptop but it is too bulky to carry around. A “wifi” ready cell phone is another option. Write my novels on the body of an E-mail and save it in “draft” or send it to your own E-mail address to copy and paste to a desktop file of your novel. It would work for homework assignments of recapping a lecture. I use the Voice Recorder on a cell phone to dictate notes of my novels (WIPs). If you are serious about Medicine, you will eventually have to dictate and have a secretary type out your medical findings of a patient’s office visit or after you performed surgery. You will not have the time or the physical strength to spend hours at surgery with no sleep for 48 hours and then type out reports before you forget what you did. Improve your memory, why Latin is recommended. It might help in memorizing medical terms. Medical Romance, even though I grew up with General Hospital (soap opera on TV), is not something I am eager to write as well. But if an editor told me to write it, I am sure; I can come up with something.
Well, any genre can be done well.
A lot of good advice you have there, you’ve really thought it through 🙂 On another note I just watched a presentation called “American pictures” by a danish photographer who traveled through America’s slum and took pictures etc. etc. His presentation was really inspiring and makes me think that a year to do something else and experience other people would also be good.
Of course, taking a medical exam and then traveling to africa would also be along those lines x)
I am pulling from past experiences. Back in fifth grade I had already decided on being against Medicine when my father, a General Surgeon living in retirement, told me I still had my muscle spasms from birth in my hands so I would never pass the physical to be a surgeon. I wanted to be Corporate Lawyer instead. But he was against it so I thought of being a writer of screenplays and novels in my old age. My father did not even want me getting a part-time job in summers during high school because it could distract me from going to Medical School. He would tell me stories of friends who gave on medicine because of petty cash to watch a movie or buy ice cream. If you really want to take a year, you have to make you happy first. We suffer from the decisions we make, even agreeing or disagreeing with our parents.
great post. I lived in this for years too…18 years in corporate marketing and resigned in a sea of stress and aggravation in 2008. Instead of telling the truth–I couldn’t stand it anymore. The juggle was awful. The bending of the truth to get the sale. I told them “I needed time w/my son”. So, 4 years later, I’m so much happier. We have 1/2 the income, but it was worth it. I just need to unleash that creativity now that I have a 2nd grader, not a baby anymore. I liked what you said about “following the rules and listening to our teachers”-that’s so true…in my case, it was my mother, telling me that you can’t be an independent woman in the arts—because it doesn’t pay anything—so she directed me towards the numbers and the business side of things. Yes, I had a good, high paying career, but I left feeling like I had no hobbies and no creativity left…..