Above my desk, there is a picture of Neil Gaiman, a printout with his rules for writing, and a mask of Mitch McConnell with crossed eyes added. While I write, these two older white fellows help guide my work — part inspiration and part fright. I’m sure that it is a problem psychologically, but I’ve got other images to go above my desk — pictures of geisha and women that I admire — but I haven’t taken the time to put them up. Right now, these two keep me working.
For the last couple of years after parting ways with my employer, I searched for many jobs, desperately and without discernment. I wanted anything that would pay me enough money to not lose my car. I started teaching, writing for LEO and photographing weddings. It paid just enough to get me by. I searched the job listings, hoping that something would put me back into the world of mid-level office work, yet secretly wishing that something new and amazing would happen that didn’t involve business-casual attire in any form.
My husband watched as I applied for job after job as he struggled, working overtime, to pay our bills. Seeing me frustrated, feeling defeated at each missed opportunity because I was either too qualified or not qualified enough, he finally asked me something in his beautiful, dry way: “Why aren’t you writing? I want you to write.”
I looked at him, puzzled. I write columns for LEO twice a month, and what else could I be doing? It dawned on me — advice that I’d been given many years over: “Never give up on your dream.” Sure, that’s easy for people who have enough money to pay their bills and live comfortably in well-maintained houses. When your student loan is looming over you, large as a house payment, how do you not give up your dream?
Back to Neil Gaiman’s rules. The first rule is to write.
I went to college to be a writer. I spent the equivalent of a modest first home on an education to do something that I’ve been playing at like recess. What had I been doing with something that for so many years kept me sane? I loved writing because I could be anything, have anything and do anything. It was my release and it came easily.
But when my husband told me that he wanted me to write, anxiety came before my words. I felt stuck and tried to start a few long pieces, but nothing happened. I’d dedicated myself to the cause again, and I wasn’t going to give up. Then LEO went through its changes and I was afraid that I was going to lose my column. Instead, I found myself in a position to explore more avenues as a writer. Later, a friend asked me to take a writing job that she couldn’t. And someone else found my resume on a freelancing site and offered me the chance to do some corporate writing for a music festival. Having been explicit in my desire to write again and then to put my fingers on the keyboard, the universe seems to have responded. I feel moved and more than I have in a long time, inspired by words.
The thing is, though I’m still at the beginning and struggling, our bills are mostly paid. I’ve had a better year than I’ve had in a long time, and the simple act of rededicating myself to writing has opened avenues that I didn’t realize existed or that I neglected to see because I was stuck believing that there is only one way to live a life and earn money. My husband was correct; he often is, as he listens to his gut more than I do mine on many occasions.
I began the journey when I was 13, and it didn’t make sense to have spent an entire lifetime dedicated to something, only to then act as if it didn’t matter to the world. We all have a voice, and each of them matters. Mine matters. So, I’ll keep writing because I see an open window where there were only closed doors, and I’m not missing another opportunity because I let myself forget who I have always been. I can’t let fear or doubt creep in because it will derail me from what is out there for me. I know — as I’ve always known — my destiny is my words. I’m just happy that I had someone remind me.