How many times have you heard someone use the word "When …" right before stating a goal? I've heard it more times than I can count, especially in the context of writing.
"When I'm finished with (task, event, season of life), I plan to write a book."
"When my kids are (grown, in school, out of school, out of diapers, out of debt, out of trouble … out of my freaking hair!), I plan to finish the book."
"When I finally figure out (what life is all about, what I want to say, why the world is round), I plan to start my memoir."
This blog post is going to sound harsh to some of you. It's not meant to sound that way. Not much anyway.
I've just learned that waiting for your real life to begin means you probably are going to be living your fake life for a long, long time.
I totally understand the demands of life and how hard it is, when it's all you can do simply to exist from day to day, to put time into something that seems ...
In the last decade, I spent several years as a single-again mom, getting an infant out of diapers and into school, living paycheck to paycheck, wondering how I was going to ever get enough sleep, much less get ahead. Then I spent a few more years as a newlywed, going back to school full-time to get my master's degree while working full-time and still trying to fit raising three kids in there somewhere. Then I spent some years working many hours per week doing freelance work simply to contribute to my household's income.
Somewhere in there, in the midst of all that activity, I finally realized it was time for my real life to begin.
So I started writing a book. Eventually, I finished one. Then another. And I'm still going.
And guess what? I decided I like my real life, and I'm glad I stopped waiting for it to begin.
I've been fortunate enough in the process to have the opportunity to begin writing full-time (but not until we went through our budget and decided what we really, honestly could live without in order for me to do it). I know that one day I may have to return to some kind of job to bring in money if I don't start earning money as a writer and if our circumstances call for it.
I have to be honest. Some days, I think about my other real lives:
- The one where I live in a walkable city – one with great public transportation, great music performed live frequently, great theater, great restaurants, great weather . . . you get the picture. But last weekend, my husband and I decided it was time to stop complaining and start doing our research. We plan to take some of our upcoming vacations in places we believe might come close to that dream so that when it's time, we'll be ready.
- The one where I'm skinny again and exercise almost every day and still eat dessert on Friday nights. Several months ago, I started heading that way and have lost about 15 pounds, but I still catch myself dreaming about the ultimate goal instead of being thankful that I am already a little bit healthier and that I can fit back into things I couldn't wear last year and knowing I might meet my goal if I keep on keeping on.
- And the one where I already have an agent and a publishing deal and I'm going crazy trying to write one book, revise another, and market another. But hey, at least I'm finishing books and sending out queries (okay, Joan, probably not as often as I should be these days, but I have a master plan, you see).
What about you? What does your real life look like? Are you still waiting for it to begin?
I love this song by Colin Hay (yes, formerly of Men at Work!), and this scene from Scrubs brings the point home even more with a little bit of humor and a good dose of goosebumps at the end. The first time I found the song online, I played it over and over again and some kind of light bulb lit up in my mind. It was about then that I got serious about my writing and started living my real life.