It’s Sunday and I’m in the Kings Cross library with Max while he studies for his Masters and I study an online course in Podcasting. This has become a weekend ritual of ours, as we sacrifice our relaxation time for time spent reaching for the next rung in our careers. It’s enjoyable. Not because our philosophy is based on career fulfilment, but because what we’re studying is what we enjoy.
A bit over a month ago, I was lost. I couldn’t answer the question: What do you enjoy? It sent me into a tailspin. In your 30s it’s easy to conflate the word enjoy with trivial. There’s a dread in enjoyment for its own sake because by now we’re programmed to require our pursuits to have monetised conclusions. Why are you doing this and what good will it bring? I was asked what I really wanted to do with my life and I kept coming back to the same end: nothing I want to do is listed in the job ads and if it is I’m not qualified for it … yet.
A bit over a month ago, I finished emailing agents pitching my manuscript to them. I’ve had about 14 rejections out of the possible 66 that I emailed. And now silence. It’s to be expected. I’m no one and I’ve written a memoir. The rejection letters were polite and supportive, the excuses for not taking me on were justified with time constraints and subjectivity, and framed with an urge for me to be persistent. It’s totally fine because I knew this was what to expect. It’s the process. Selling myself isn’t enjoyable, but thinking about what exactly I’ve written gave me perspective on the original impetus to write the book.
I write because I enjoy it. I’m also – narcissistic? – enough to think that people would want to read my stories. I’m self-aware enough to know that my stories alone aren’t sufficiently interesting. For the memoir, I took on bigger themes and multiple timelines and places to portray the initial thoughts. It’s odd that in face of the rejection and a stalling career that I haven’t lost confidence in writing. I suppose after 3 years writing a manuscript, with 100s of revisions, I have made peace with the craft. Writing is just concentrated communication. I enjoy words and language. I love piecing together syntactical flow so it sounds intimate. I write because I’m sure – and unsure – there are people out there who ‘get’ what I have to say.
Over this recent time of uncertainty, I’ve been able to vocalise a truth that I hadn’t been able to before: I’m a writer but I have no daydreams of being a career author. Communication is my only goal. I want to write but I don’t want to write only out of a drive to have a career in writing. I could do it, but I don’t want to.
I got lost because I’d applied for a job that seemed like a logical career move. It was related to the teaching I do now, but it would have been a lot less creative. Just paid more. Just gave me sick and holiday pay. I got a second interview. It was going well until the interviewers asked how I’d cope with the corporate nature of the job. I said I didn’t know. I said that if I didn’t do well, I’d quit. I dug a career-sized hole and finished the interview talking up out of it. Between the interview and hearing back, I cried and lost sleep. I beat myself up for sabotaging my logical career move. I beat myself up for my inability to pursue a monetised goal. I blamed my sexuality and socio-economy. I didn’t know how to play the game. I couldn’t suffer corporate life gladly. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I just suck it up? Why, why, why? I got lost because I thought there was a more complicated reason for the failure, other than the fact that I just didn’t want to do it. I could do it, but I didn’t want to.
So now I’m sitting in the library writing this post with the resolve to be super productive with the things I want to do, with the faith that it has led me places before.