I’ve known I was going to be a writer since the second grade. I had a brilliant plan post-college — work a respectable 9 to 5 each day, push out the Great American Novel at night. I mean really, how hard could it be? Twenty years and innumerable Pepto-pink cubicle walls later, my 9 to 5 was causing me chest pains and buying my therapist a Mercedes and I had written exactly… nothing. I mean, if you don’t count grocery lists, raving manifestos and scathing emails to Microsoft denouncing their products (I’ve since gone Mac, btw).
So I quit my job. If I was going to be a writer, what better time to start than right now, right?
When I tell this to would-be authors, I’m always met with saucer-wide eyes. “But… what if it didn’t work out?”
To which I stare back blankly.
Frankly, I didn’t have a Plan B. I still don’t. It wasn’t a matter of undying faith or a cache of Pollyanna-positive thoughts — more like a throwback to that second grade hard-headedness. If you want to get into the house, you keep knocking until someone opens the door. Call it drive, stupidity or American shortsightedness (USA! USA!), but to me, there weren’t any other options. Write — or die trying.
Let me first say that I am not rich. The job that I quit didn’t make me a financial mogul – heck, it didn’t offer much more than a steady paycheck and all the free Splenda packets I could stuff in my pockets (but, yay! Free Splenda!). I didn’t have a Paris Hilton-sized trust fund to fall back on, either. My biggest safety net was the knowledge that should I get evicted, I’d have to move back in with my parents and let’s face it, no one wanted that.
I also didn’t have one of those magical forays into the business that sounds so good in interviews – “I dreamed it!” a la Stephanie Meyers. Simply said, I was pissed off into it. A professor of mine told me that I should never change careers (and yes, I considered my day job stealing office supplies and copying unmentionable things on the Xerox machine a “career”) because I would have to “start from the beginning and by the time [I’d] achieve any real success, I’d be dead.”
I started from the beginning. I read about writing, I talked about writing, I used up my cache of pilfered Post It notes. Writing wasn’t my dream, it was my job. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t published (yet) because real writers get rejected. They get discouraged, Dear Author letters and horrible critiques. But they don’t give up.
Now please don’t think for a minute that I approached my laptop (mailbox, manuscript) with a big, dumb “never give up!” smile each day — because everyone hates their job sometimes. But you still go back, and hopefully, the good days outnumber the bad.
You just have to keep knocking until someone answers the door.
- Hannah Jayne
For more from Hannah Jayne check out the first novel in the Underworld Detection Agency Chronicles: Under Wraps.