Something struck me recently while reading. I am a bit of a nerd, and I actually do read the author interviews at the ends of books. I also read the acknowledgements pages, as well as the author bios, and it is not uncommon for me to be found creeping online for info about whatever writer I am presently reading. As a writer, in general, other writers fascinate me.
But what struck me was what I have found most interesting about authors. Of course, I like to hear about their process and about how they got their big break, and where their big idea came from, and all of that. But I realized that I was increasingly becoming more interested in the non-writerly things they do. The things they do for enjoyment, humanitarian work they’ve done, or non-writing work they do or have done in the past.
For instance, Isaac Asimov, the great father of modern science fiction, was also a biochemist who taught at a university and wrote textbooks. While he was writing Carrie, Stephen King was a high school English teacher. A YA fantasy writer I read recently moonlights as a Hollywood make-up artist, though she’s published a best-selling series. Andy Weir is a computer programmer and space travel nerd, whose serial novel The Martian topped the charts out of nowhere.
I read an awesome book recently called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In this book, a writer named Don Miller who wrote a best-selling memoir a while before, finds himself feeling really aimless in spite of his success, to the point he has a hard time getting out of bed. In the book, Don sets out to find out what living a good story looks like, rather than just writing about it.
We writers, I think, can sort of idealize this “writing life,” and, perhaps, idolize the thought of being a professional writer, i.e. someone who can pay the bills strictly by writing. While this is a great dream, it is not everything. Even if that goal is attained, writers are still people living out stories of their own outside their own heads, who may or may not happen to pay bills through writing.
I think I am finding that while I would love to be a “career” writer, I also don’t want to forget to live. One of my professors in college has written some great books that have received acclaim, but he’s still working his day job teaching undergrad writing classes, and there is no shame in that. More writers than we realize do a lot of other things too, and many may write full-time for a while, but also go back to doing other things.
So, what I’m saying is, don’t give up on your writing dreams, but also, don’t forget to really live in the world outside your head.