Writing is a time consuming hobby/job/career/lifestyle. It doesn’t just take up your hours when you’re sitting in front of your computer, banging away at the story that’s going to change your life one way or the other. If you’re passionate about what you’re working on at the time, you’ll think about it constantly. While at your day job you’ll begin to wander off in your thoughts, considering what it would do for (or to) your story if this element were replaced with this one, or if you completely changed a certain character. Or maybe you stress over all the submissions you recently sent out and can’t stop looking over your e-mail.
However you look at it, if you’re serious about writing, it takes up a lot of your time. At some point, any serious writer is going to have to come to a crossroads about what the next step in their lives will be. Do you give it your all, put all of your eggs in one basket, and take on part-time jobs so that your only full-time commitment is writing? Do you pursue other dreams and hope beyond hope that you’ll be able to keep up your writing and maybe even—dare I say—be successful at it?
As you may have guessed, my thoughts today stem from my own personal experiences. I am currently considering medical school. It is something I wanted to do most of my life, and then in college I discovered that I really love writing. College also showed me that being in school and trying to write don’t quite go together, so the decision was ultimately to put off graduate school to see what kind of leeway I could make on my writing. It’s been a little over a year and while I am doing well on the writing front, I am coming to a place where it is time to decide what my next move will be.
My current gchat status is: Will going to medical school kill my writing dreams? Let’s look at the facts. Michael Crichton wrote while in medical school and that all turned out fairly well for him. As a matter of fact, one memory he had was of overhearing professors talk about the scientific fallacies of his novel, The Andromeda Strain, not knowing that he was, indeed, the author. Eventually, though, he took on writing as a full-time endeavor. Would he have continued to put out the successes he did if he would have continued being a practicing physician? Probably not, but then again, if his passion for medicine had been as strong as his love for writing, he would have most likely struck a nice balance between the two and had no complaints.
John Grisham, as we all know, is another famous example of a professional turned writer. Again, he stopped practicing law to write full time. When we hear about writing successes, we mostly hear about people living in one-room apartments, posted in cafés all day, or struggling to take care of their family on a shitty salary, spending all their time behind the keyboard. Is that how it has to be? Are each of us really granted one true passion in life and we will ultimately have to choose between option to fit that bill?
I personally hope not, but then again my hopes are different from what I believe might be true. In the end, going to medical school might kill my writing, at least for a good period of my life. There is a possibility that I may make it work, but at what cost? No life? No friends? No family? Less quality in my writing? Is ‘quitting your day job’ and putting any other passions on hold the best way to be successful as a writer? And what if you don’t make it, and one day find yourself old and with nothing to show for it?
I started this post hoping/wanting to end with some revelation or words of wisdom. I really did. But all I really have is confusion. I do believe that if you are passionate about writing, then you will do whatever you can to write. But when you have other passions…well, how do those co-exist?
Any thoughts/experiences floating out there? I’d love to hear.