I spent yesterday afternoon at Berkeley City College trying to enroll.
I’m a nervous wreck!
It occurred to me the other night that the reason it’s been so hard for me to write lately could have something to do with my trepidation about going back to school…I mean, what the hell am I doing?? Come on! I’ve been in business for the last 26 years. I’ve been moderately successful at it, at least till the advent of “The Great Recession” (okay, things have been hard since 9/11, but, until the recession hit, I was still making a living)
I’m a great designer; and a passable business person. A GREAT designer! I make beautiful costumes, gorgeous clothes, coats to die for…I repeat: what the HELL am I doing?
Trying to make a better life for myself, that’s what. Trying to escape the abject poverty that has enveloped me for the last few years. Trying to use other parts of my brain, other talents to make a living. Trying to expand. Trying to go from burnt out and downtrodden to fulfilled and happy. (yep, that one’s the kicker!)
Great goals, right? But with writing? WHAT…THE HELL…AM I DOING??? Please god, please goddess, please tell me why I picked yet another pie in the sky career to pursue. Especially when I have a very serviceable (albeit at this point desperately underpaid) pie in the sky career already in place. I know design, I know how to do my job, I know how to make clothing flow and fit, I know how to sew anything and everything, and if I don’t KNOW how, I’ll figure it out. It’s second nature to me, I can do any of it in my sleep, and…
I’ve long since lost the passion for it that I once had!
Oh sure, I still love good design, both when I do it myself, or when I see it in someone else’s work. BUT I no longer get chills when I make something amazing .
(I gave myself chills the other night when I read something I had just written.)
I also know how to SELL myself when it comes to design, I know how to make a living (yeah, yeah, yeah, not a good one right now, but it has been in the past) I know how to sell my work, I know how to give people both what they want, and what they don’t yet know that they want. I am confident in my abilities.
But writing? Well, I know how to do that…I think! (hence the going back to school) But selling myself as a writer, or selling my writing to an agent, or publisher, or e-reader, or whoever, however, whatever I’ve got to sell it to, to be a success at this darling little scheme of mine? That, I haven’t a clue about. (blog stats? You wanna talk blog stats? No, please, can we not? My stats are terrible!)
So, there’s one thing: I am practically salivating at the prospect of taking the class titled “The Business Of Writing”. I desperately need the clue that a class with that title will give me. (Or clues. Yeah, probably clues. Plural.) A class with that title will also, most likely, give me some confidence that writing CAN be done as a career, that there is a possibility…no, scratch that, let’s be new-agey positive here…a probability that one can actually make a living as a writer. I need that confidence! I believed in that probability a year ago when I was excited and thrilled by the shiny new toy that writing was. However…in the interim the shine has dulled as I’ve dealt with not only well meaning friends and customers who just don’t understand why I would want to give up a (moderately) successful design career that I’m so good at, but, also, by an inner voice that tells me that life would be so much better, financially speaking, so much less stressful, if I would just quit this durned fool notion of writing and get down to the real business at hand, which is turning on the sewing machine and makin’ some clothes! (Geez Louise, when I learned the concept of parenting myself, I never once figured that it meant I was going to become my very own nagging mother!)
Confidence, yeah, that’s what I need! I need to shine up that now dull and not quite so new toy with confidence! And discipline! And the confidence that I can muster the discipline to make the shiny-new-toy-darling-little-scheme actually work. I think school will help with that. Last time I was in school (thirty years ago, gulp!) I carried a 3.875 GPA, so I certainly was able to buckle down and discipline myself then…I surely will be able to do it now…right?
The other day I read a post by Kristen Lamb titled “Writing Tip # 3–Talent is Cheaper than Table Salt” that was all about the discipline thing. (http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/2013/01/07/writing-tip-3-talent-is-cheaper-than-table-salt/)The title references a quote by Stephen King that says “Talent is cheaper than table salt.What separates the talented individual from the successful is a lot of hard work” She then talked about an old boyfriend of hers that was scary-smart, but also as lazy as a slug on a sunny day. It scared me, ’cause it dovetailed so nicely with the fears I’ve been dealing with lately: do I have the chops for this brand new profession I appear to be going for? Should I be steering my life in this direction? Am I being incredibly Pollyanna-ish to even think about going down this road? What the hell am I doing? Now, I have to tell you, I’ve always loved writing, always seen myself as a writer, hell it was the first way I really knew how to communicate, having been shy and tongue-tied as a youngster. When I got out of Fashion School in 1983, I wanted to be a writer, not a designer. I went on to gain some notoriety in the San Francisco Poetry Scene, even got my favorite poem used for the San Francisco Poets Calender in 1984 or so…but therein lay the problem: I was a poet, and poets don’t make a living writing, they make a living teaching…and, as I’m so fond of saying, teaching would be the seventh level of hell for me. Besides which, I’d just spent two years and thousands of dollars edu-ma-cating myself to become a fashion designer. I had one of those “What the hell am I doing?” moments then too, and decided that, for the time being at least, I was going to give up writing and concentrate on designing. And I did. I always knew I would come back to writing, though. Of course I figured I would be sixty-five, retired from design, and still a poet. (I tried to write prose and fiction back then, I really did. It was awful! Stilted and stiff, unreadable, even by me.) But life had other ideas. As did my mid-life crisis. So here I am, at the point of HAVING to write a full decade and more earlier than I supposed…
Is it the right thing for me? Do I have what it takes? Should I turn back now, while I still can?
In the years that I’ve had my business, there have been times that I’ve quit, but never completely. In the 90’s I went off to fulfill my dream of working in the film industry, worked there half the year and at my business the other half. I was, as usual, moderately successful. By seven years in I knew that I was going to have to pick a career, that I wasn’t going to get anywhere by splitting my year or my energies. It was an incredibly hard decision to make, because I LOVED working in the film industry, though my community, the largest segment anyway, was at The Renaissance Faire. I was also a single mom with a kid going into middle school. The film jobs I was getting were going further and further up the ladder, so, I knew the days of picking Jules up after school in the Five-Ton and taking him to set were coming to an end. I also knew that Julian coming home to an empty house, with mom working long hours away from said house was a recipe for disaster for a young teen. My primary responsibility was HIM. Several hundreds of points in favor of ending my career in the film industry were right there, with my son, whom I adore and want the best for. Then I looked forward ten years and tried to ascertain where I would be happiest, and the faire won out, hands down. And so, I made my decision, never looked back, and never regretted it. (though I still do have the occasional dream of being on a set. I wake up feeling bittersweet.)
So, there you are, I’ve left the role of business owner, of “boothie” at the faire before…but, never completely. I’ve always kept one foot in that world, never willing to give it all up, never willing to commit myself fully to something else.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I won’t be leaving my community. I love my friends. I wish to stay in that world, I just don’t want that world to be linked to “career” and “making a living” anymore. There are ways I could still be at the faire that would be ever so much more fun and fulfilling than owning a booth: I could work for another booth(fun…ish, but may or may not be right for me) I could, perhaps, get a job at an ale stand. (I’ve only wanted to do that for thirty, thirty-five years)Tthat would be a BLAST! I could even go back to the entertainment department (boy, would I have to stretch myself for that one, my stomach’s doing flip flops just thinking about it.) There’s even the possibility of hitting up a friend or two for a pass for just a weekend or two each faire, camping out, visiting, being there for afterhours. That could work. I could even be a day visitor, if I was really busy. There are options, I don’t have to go the soul-suck route of being a vendor in order to remain part of this community.
So, there you are, for the first time in 26 years, I’m actually willing to give up my business to go for another dream…but should I? I dunno, I’m hoping school will help answer that question, as well as give me the tools I need for success, and a kick in the butt confidence wise (boy, oh boy, a few glittery A++’s would do wonders for that old sense of confidence and purpose, I just know it!)(and I am—or at least I was, thirty years ago— a damned good student, a star in the classroom. I thrive in that setting.)
And there you are, twelve hundred plus words in the past couple of hours, in addition to the seven hundred that took me seven million hours yesterday,(hyperbole is my middle name) when I started this little piece of soul-searching. Apparently my block is coming to an end, I will soon be back to writing with abandon and abandoning myself to my writing. I look forward to that, because being stuck has been awful, more soul-sucking even than being a vendor at The Renaissance Faire (there goes my outside font again, always with the snide comments!)