Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Dignity of Risk

Aimless Writer sent me this gorgeous picture of her two dogs in a snowstorm. Aren't they adorable? And I think snow is so pretty. I can't wait to hear that silent, muffled sound! I’m itching for snow tonight. I love snow before and during (and only before and during) the holidays!

More pictures, anyone, pretty please? Thanks so much for sharing! They do cheer one up, don’t they? (Okay, they cheer me up, but I hope they do you, too!)

When I first worked with kids with disabilities at a horse farm, I was pretty nervous. I mean, what if they fell? What if they got hurt? But a wiser woman than me explained the dignity in risk, and that taking that dignity away is much worse for a person than a cut or a scrape or a broken bone.

When I was in conservatory, we were expected to make our living from music. We were told ninety-some percent of our alumni were working in the music field, and the implied expectation was that we would either maintain or bump up that percentage. Day jobs were not mentioned, ever. In fact, I can remember an actor once telling me, "whatever you do, don’t get a day job." (He was right, too.)

In the writing world, um, people go on and on about not quitting your day job. I wonder if we should focus our efforts more on making writing a viable living for ourselves and less on incessantly harping on newcomers about this day job bit.

This advice is repeated so ad nauseum that even unpublished writers spout it.

Recently, Bernita mentioned a conversation on Dear Author and how some commenters took a blame the victim attitude towards those whose e-pubs had gone under. What really surprises me in all these discussions is that it feels like the majority of those talking bad-mouth these venues and disrespect those that enter in contracts with those venues.

All I really want to say about it is this: these are adults. They have given some thought to the risk and made the decision that felt right for them.

And what if they haven’t?

Big deal. They’re adults. Give them the dignity of risk and give them respect for their efforts. After all, publishing in NY isn’t exactly risk-free.

And although we should take note of all the warnings and pitfalls, my life experience tells me I should look at what I want, keep my eye on the ball, and figure out how to get it. That I should take heart and learn from those who have gotten what I want.

Instead of saying impossible, ask how? Get creative and plan. If I went deaf tomorrow I have three possible paths my pseudonym could take to bring in income, and that’s not because she’s any good at writing.

Here’s a story of a man who believed in his wife’s book so much, he did everything wrong without knowing anything about the business. Sure, it has a success story at the end but that’s not the point. The point is that he barrelled ahead, making mistakes and learning the hard way. He seems to have every intention of barrelling ahead with other projects, doing things his way.

First, I think it’s sweet and romantic that he believed in his wife’s book so much. Secondly, that’s cool. It’s his life and his path, period. I can’t tell you how many students just will not learn unless they learn the hard way.

And why should they? There’s nothing wrong with wanting to experience the spectrum of life for yourself. The journey has lots of valleys, but at least you’re living.

I have a writer friend who quit her day job. Ended up, she hated the pressure and running out to the mailbox every day, panicking for a check. There were times she was downright miserable.

But you know what? Because she quit her day job, she ended up meeting the man of her heart. When he almost died, she had the ability to pick up and go and sit with him in the hospital for months on end. (And bring him home alive so she could marry him!)

There is something glorious and fulfilling to jumping in with both feet. Maybe it’s not the easiest path or the easiest life, but you can’t say it’s boring. Some of the best things in my life happened when I fell down, made a mistake, or took the wrong path. At least I lived, followed my heart, and didn’t shy from experiences good or bad.

Give others the dignity of risk, because you never know what great thing will come of their life if they make the "wrong" or "foolish" choice.

So what wrong path has given you something SO right?

5 bonus scribbles:

Susan Helene Gottfried 11/15/2007 09:50:00 PM  

FABULOUS post, babe!!!

And can we really say that guy did everything wrong if he's getting the desired result? Maybe some of these paths need to be broken at last...

I don't know. But maybe.

Aimless Writer 11/16/2007 07:15:00 AM  

Love this post! Scared myself silly by running with a rough crowd when I was young. Took the safe route when the kids came along making them priority. Now they've grown a bit and I'm faced with a company buyout and probably being unemployed next spring I wonder if I should just leap into the writing life...just to see what happens. I heard Dean Koontz gave himself a few years while he stayed home to write and his wife worked to see if he could launch his career.

Bernita 11/16/2007 08:48:00 AM  

With Susan all the way.
Wonderful post!

Edie 11/16/2007 11:41:00 AM  

I LOVE this post, Spy! I quit my day job and live frugally until I "make" it. I have faith that it will happen. In addition to faith, I'm working damn hard to see that it does.

I think I've taken some "wrong paths" in the choice of books I've written, but in the end they led to better choices. So it's all good. :)

Lorraine Bartlett 11/16/2007 11:47:00 AM  

When my day job ended, my husband's freelance work took off, so I've had no day job for 51 weeks so far. It's great...but not enough people respect the fact that writing is a job. I find it almost impossible to turn down my elderly parents when they request help, despite the fact there are others they could call on. And if I can't do it, they get angry with me if I ask my husband to help. They don't want to "inconvenience" him.