I have been a little bit absent from the blogosphere, and that is because I have been rather busy, gnawing my leg off in anxiety, since I left my job.
I like leaving jobs. I do it regularly. But I had been I this job for three years, and they were three good years. I liked the work. I liked [most] of the people. What happened?
I was reading Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. This woman has written three books in her life. I don’t know much about the first, but Gilead won the Pulitzer or the National Book Prize or something fabulous, and its sequel Home won the Orange Prize, and I do like reading Orange Prize winners. Not a bad track record, hey?
Anyhow, so I was reading this beautiful, calm book on the train from work. And I was beautifully calm as a result. And in that beautiful calm, I knew. It was time. I was tired of the commute, and I was tired of working in an office, to office hours. I had been denying that for a while, but reading Robinson’s meditative graces, following the ruminating paces of an old man writing a letter to his son because the old man is dying; well, let’s call it perspective.
I resigned the next day. When I told my manager, he smiled and asked, “For real this time?” which indicates where my head had been for the last few months. I said, yes, for real this time. I meant it.
And so, on 26 Feb I started not-working. Or to be more precise: freaking out to the tune of the ocean crashing 1 km away from my mortgage.
The plan was to take a month or so, finish my book, then start looking for some consulting work. What happened was, I became immediately obsessed with finding work. I applied for something like four different contracts in the space of ten days whilst still working for my previous employer in transition mode. I was staying up late, let’s put it that way.
Then a good friend of mine visited from Canberra. She smiled politely when I told her I had changed my plans; that getting consulting had become more important than finishing the book. I muttered about a “pipeline,” and she didn’t say anything. The next morning, when my husband had headed out to buy breakfast for us, she took me in hand. She said, and I pretty much quote, “Is your credit card maxed out?” [No.] “Do you have money saved so you can do the writing?” [Yes.] “You have a university education, a massive amount of experience and a great reputation. You’ll find work. And your book is going to be a best seller if you finish it. How much certainty do you need before you’ll be happy? Do you need an investment property first, is that when you’ll be satisfied?”
Part of me thought, yes…but that part was wrong to have the floor, and I could see it. By the time my husband came home, I had agreed with her to fulfil my current commitments, but to focus on the writing for a month and then get more consulting work. Get the book finished. Stop avoiding the real fear, which is that I’ll finish it and
NO ONE WILL LIKE IT.
Honestly, being a writer is sometimes like being five years old and in a new school; standing in the playground, with your new cowboy belt and gun, and suddenly having the sinking realisation that maybe here they don’t know about cowboys; and worse, maybe it’s actually a stupid game, and you’re actually an idiot, even though it was all the rage back where you cam from. It’s a terrible shock when you first learn that what you always believed may not be universal.
Anyway. So this is the 41st day of the rest of my life. I’m giving it a determined go. I am not shooting for any prizes like Marilynne Robinson. It’s not that kind of book. I just hope that I can get it finished and give the labour its due. And remember that if someone shoots it down, they’re only using a toy gun, after all.