Which way to turn at the crossroads?

Reading Al Boudreau‘s wonderful post “It’s all about you” a few days ago, I was struck by how closely his thoughts on the subject chimed with mine. Years ago, I was standing at my reception desk having just returned from a wedding in Cuba thinking “I don’t want to be here. I want to be over there.” Then I kind of turned round and said to myself “Well, quit whining and do something about it.” Less than six months later I moved to Peru and lived there for two and a half years.

Ever since I grew up to the point where I was willing and able to take responsibility for my own happiness I have found it tremendously liberating to take risks such as these. The question I always ask myself when I’m getting nervous (as I did three weeks before moving to South America) is “Will I regret NOT doing this? Will I look back at the age of 93 and wish I HAD done it?” Tellingly, when I ask myself this question about bungee jumping the answer is always “No”.

We are encouraged, from the cradle to the grave, to ‘do the right thing’. But often the ‘right thing’ isn’t along the lines of returning lost wallets stuffed full of money, but to get a ‘proper’ job, often behind a desk for eight hours a day, five days a week. We certainly shouldn’t take off to Peru for a couple of years simply because we feel like it. And creative pursuits such as writing, music and art are ‘hobbies’ and not something anyone seriously considers earning their living with.

Except that so many people do! The huge number of writers I have encountered on Twitter and Goodreads shows that there are thousands of writers alone who want to express themselves creatively and earn their living at it. I should mention here that I have encountered a couple who are happy with their day job and writing on the side, which is fine. But it seems the majority would rather the day job be the writing.

And thus it is that I find myself at a crossroads which isn’t really a crossroads. I haven’t been able to work since January because of back trouble, but I was still officially an employee and getting paid. That changed yesterday, so I am now officially unemployed. But whereas normally when you lose your job you would simply start looking for another one, I can’t do that. My back is still a mess and will be for a while, which means I’m not able to work. Which means I won’t be getting paid by anyone for a while. Therefore I am still in the situation whereby I have a lot of free time in which to write. Nothing has changed except for my income level which I am powerless to do anything about.

I suppose what I’m saying is that when you have the option to do something risky, you should take it. Because having to do something risky through lack of options is by far the less enjoyable route.

Have you ever taken a calculated risk and made a major life change like my move to Peru (I did organise myself a job before I went out)? Would you like to? Or would you rather work and then do the risky stuff with your pension in the bank?

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About Mhairi Simpson

Writer, dreamer. Magic, dragons, pink mice, cake. Come say hi!
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13 Responses to Which way to turn at the crossroads?

  1. Al Boudreau says:

    Wonderful and thoughtful post, Anne. I noticed your fabulous way with words when we became friends a few months back. It takes persistence and a strong will to make it in the writing game, along with really solid skills. You have all of these things in spades, my Dear. You will succeed and attain your goal of writing for a living. I’m sure of it.

    • Thank you! Sometimes it takes a door closing for the important one to open ๐Ÿ™‚ Now that I have all this free time I have no excuse whatsoever not to throw myself into my writing with a whole heart and no rope ๐Ÿ˜€

  2. ibc4 says:

    I couldn’t have clicked on this article at a better time.
    I’ve just come back from a long walk to clear my head and think about what I’m doing with my life.

    I love writing. I have a day job. They are not sitting happily with each other.

    I arrived at the conclusion that I write for my own entertainment.

    For now.

    • I have been exactly where you are. All I can tell you is that if you want hard enough to write for more than your own entertainment then it will happen. Just be careful what you wish for. I wanted to be able to write full-time (i.e. have the time and money to do so). Unfortunately I wasn’t specific about how I was to get the time or the money… ๐Ÿ˜€

      I think you’ve made the right decision. The most important words there are for now.

  3. K.B. Owen says:

    I had no idea you were going through all this! So sorry you’ve had this struggle. It’s scary being unemployed, I know. Sitting in front of a keyboard to write with a bad back is tough to do, too.

    Hang in there!

    • Well, actually I’ve been lying on my bed because, as you say, sitting is impossible. But lying on my bed propped up with four pillows eliminates the problem ๐Ÿ˜€ And I’m glad you didn’t know because it means I haven’t been blathering on about it to all and sundry ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. What an amazing, encouraging post in the midst of your trouble. I’m SO sorry about your back.

    I’ve taken leaps of faith before and made major life changes before–never moved to a different country, but did pack up and move to a different state. Among some other things. ๐Ÿ˜€

    (Also, the very thought of bungee jumping makes me cringe.)

    Thank you for this post and for sharing such personal events.

  5. Liza Kane says:

    I completely agree: TAKE THE (calculated) RISK!

    When my thenboyfriendnowhusband and I decided to get married, we didn’t plan a big elaborate wedding: we flitted off to Maui after our decision, with only an (unfurnished) apartment in Ohio to go back to after our 2-week wedding/honeymoon celebrations. We just dumped our bridal shower presents there and off to Maui we went. We didn’t even have any concrete job prospects (I put in a transfer with my company, but I didn’t technically have a location hammered out yet). Which means that within a month, we:
    -found an awesome photog and coordinated wedding plans
    -found an apartment (which was hard bc I lived in NY at the time and he lived in IN)
    -found a job (I did a phone interview while on Maui)
    It was funny being the young, unemployed, newly married couple in a table full of established, gainfully-employed tourists at a luau. I loved seeing their faces when they congratulated us on our wedding and then try to hide their shock and horror that we were there without jobs. Brilliant.

    Our next risk? Moved to Indiana, and buying a house WAY BELOW market value with the purpose of renovating it, refinancing it, and profit from it. We had to live solely on my income for a while so that husband was free to do the heavy grunt work. Now that we only have to take care of cosmetic issues, he’s back in the workforce.
    We may not have done the conventional thing, and believe me at the time that we acted on those things, we received a lot of “you’re crazy-s”, but obviously looking back, I know I got a LOT of return on my “risky” investments.

    Next step? Writing full-time as my paythebills job. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • That’s fantastic!! I have found that when you truly commit yourself to a course of action it turns out as you wanted it, probably because you really work at it, rather than just drifting along thinking, well, maybe in a year or two, or five, something will come around…

  6. Akoss says:

    A lot of deep thinking here.
    I always like to have a back up plan, before doing anything “risky”.
    but then having a back-up plan removes the majority of my risk taking, right?
    *sigh*

  7. junyingkirk says:

    Go for it, Gal! That’s what I’d say to you. It was really brave of you to take off to Peru, a culture so vastly different (I assume, because I’ve never been there :-), and if you could do that then, you can do the write/right thing now.

    We all take risks in life, some more than others, and at the end of the day, it’s much better that we act on our wishes than regreting it later in life.

    Personally I like challenges and would rather venture into the unknown than living a risk-free but boring life. Nearly a decade ago, I had a perfect job (took me years to train and find it), only to be subjected to bullying and harassment. I could have hung on to it and be unhappy, or gave it up and faced a prospect of no work and ruined career. I took the plunge, and consequently I did not have income nor work for a couple of years! It was bad, but the flip side? I ended up writing two full-length novels and now call myself an ‘author’ :-). I also became a free-lance interpreter, which I absolutely love but never considered it as a viable career before.

    Sorry to hear about your back, and all the best for your writing, Anne!

    • Well done you on making that decision!! That’s fantastic! I was just thinking this afternoon about a couple of near-death experiences I had in Peru (not joking) and it occurred to me that, whatever else was wrong with my life out there, I definitely felt alive!

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