A few weeks ago I ran into my OB/GYN at a restaurant. (Don’t worry, this story will not get weird or gross. I’m just trying to make a point, okay?) After kind salutations, looks of confusion and vague recognition, (“Remember me? I was 30 pounds heavier the last time you saw me!”) we started talking about each others’ lives. I asked her about her job and she asked what I was up to. I sighed (which I always do when asked this question) and babbled something about my web design classes at the community college. My husband (who was having lunch with me) told her I was a writer. I cringed at the forbidden word. Here I was, sitting in front of one of the most practical/economically-stable professionals talking about this job title that I don’t even know I’ve earned yet. She surprised me with her honest excitement about my chosen career path. But sure enough, the obligatory question ensued:
“Are you published?”The obligatory answer (justification) followed.
“No, but a couple of agents and an editor are reading my work.”She expressed admiration for my determination as she said she couldn’t take the delayed gratification a career in publishing represents.
I started thinking about the term “delayed gratification.” I don’t think I could begin to explain to a non-writer how gratifying it is to create a world of your own where you get to control every event, every word, and every movement a character makes. But how does this (guilty) pleasure measure in the concrete world if there is no monetary retribution?
There are many hard things about being a writer. Learning how a plot develops is one of them. Creating engaging characters is another. Being able to write believable and interesting dialogue is definitely a challenge. So is finding the perfect balance between a vivid description and long narration that can easily bore a reader out of his/her mind. But perhaps one of the hardest things for me is to call myself a “writer” and convince myself that what I do is valid in the eyes of society when I’m not getting paid.
So how do we keep going at times when it seems like NOBODY cares whether we write or not; times when we wonder if all these years of writing have been a waste of time. How do we find the motivation when there is no gratification other than our own pats on the back after we’ve written a masterful sentence—or the compliments of a nice writing partner? Should it be considered work if there is no monetary gain?
I don’t have an answer. I can only tell you what keeps me motivated:
- The process of creating characters that fascinate me and accompany me everywhere I go.
- Being absorbed in a wonderful setting.
- Finding a solution to a conflict I established and didn’t know how to solve.
- Getting an email every few weeks from an agent telling me she enjoyed my work and wants to read more.
- Not finding fulfillment in anything other than writing.