I sit here at the ripe old age of 31 years. I’ve done fairly well in my career so far. I’ve been a regional manager who spearheaded an international business expansion. I’ve been a recruiter who helped secure federal contracts by recruiting people who speak rare languages. Yet, despite the breezy paychecks, I find myself having a very hard time staying in the corporate world. The question comes up yet again: should I be a writer?
In recent times, I’ve become very unsatisfied with my life. I was paid well for the work that I do, but I didn’t like what I did for work. And, in a bad habit, I tried to look for another job. But the truth is that I made the critical error of defining myself by the occupation I hold. More on that in another post. Anyway…
In the first week of March, I had a chance to break away from my corporate career. I decided to go on a year-long sabbatical. Since I started this sabbatical, I’ve read quite a many number of books to educate myself. I learned lean management and Scrum methodology. I became enamored with The Toyota Way. I broadened my understanding of business with books like Personal MBA and started a journey to small business entrepreneurship with Secrets of the Millionaire Mind and the podcast The How of Business.
But all the while, I was also exploring a career as a writer. And I’ve found some very modest success. I’ve been writing movie reviews, and I’ve written eBooks about a variety of topics: video game guides and pyramid schemes, for instance. I’ve also written articles about recruiting and even content for an interview prep site. While the pay isn’t really enough to replace a full-time income, I do find that I’m most content when I’m writing. I could easily imagine myself doing this day in and day out for the rest of my life.
It’s during this sabbatical that I realize that for most of my life, I’ve been doing what my parents and society have told me I’m supposed to do. Acting like any normal American young man, I chased money and prestigious titles. I was generally quite good at what I chose to do—I’m accomplished in sales and recruitment—but I have little interest in these things. The only reason I can say that I like these things is because I’m relatively good at them. But these pursuits drain me, they do not nourish me.
No, my interests—my heart—lies in literature. I love reading literature and mining it for truths about human nature. I love watching movies and breaking down the plot and the characters, searching it for lasting meaning or wisdom. I love playing with language, creating different characters with varied voices and personalities, and telling their stories. I wish that I could say that writing and literature are an all-consuming passion of mine, but the truth is that I’ve barely picked up a literary work in three years, and I haven’t quite written anything in just as long.
I am again at a crossroads in my life. I’m at a loss. I haven’t the slightest idea what to do.
My heart says to chase after my dream: get an MFA in Fiction Writing. But the traditional and practical side of me continues to veto that idea. That side of me immediately asks, “Where’s the money in that field? How will you raise a family like that?”
I read Make Art Make Money which is a study of Jim Henson’s career. In this book, author Elizabeth Hyde Stevens shows us that Henson was blessed in his ability to bring the two oft-competing interests of art and business. And I wonder to myself whether I can do that. It’s a struggle to find a career that takes advantage of my strengths, especially at this late stage in my life. But try I must.