I love Sveta Dorosheva’s art. When I saw Sveta’s beautiful illustration of a girl diving into a lake with all the fishes and lotus flowers surrounding her, it made me think of a post I wrote almost exactly six months ago called, Jumping Off the Cliff. It made me realize that I’m in a very different place than I was before.
In that post, I declared that I was shutting down my prelaw consulting business in July and committing myself to writing full time for the next ten years.
Did that. Closed my business on July 1 and have committed myself to writing full time.
But why ten years? Is it an arbitrary number?
Sort of. It sounds good and I love round numbers.
But here’s the thing. I think it will take that long. In fact, I think ten years is a conservative estimate no matter how much my ego wants to believe otherwise.
Ten years from now, I want to have learned a great deal about the craft of storytelling. I’ll always be learning, but my hope is that after ten years, I will be in a place where I feel that I’ve absorbed the key principles of great storytelling and will have used them on a daily basis like a habit.
I will publish during those ten years–I don’t believe in hoarding my stories until they’re “perfect”–but even though I’ve been writing part-time for the past 13 years, I believe it will take another ten years (give or take a year or two) to become the kind of writer I want to be.
I don’t think it’s unrealistic to say that it will take me 23 years to reach the level of skill and expertise that I want to reach. Even though I’m more of a sprinter, I know–have always known, though I’ve resisted it–that writing is a marathon. To succeed, I need to be in it for the long game.
I also wrote in my Jumping Off the Cliff post the following.
I realized that the last 13 years have been all about planning my next career move, saving up money to support myself, developing my skills, talking to people (and reading their blogs) who have made the dive into full-time writing, and then talking myself into actually making the dive.
I’m glad I wrote that so that I can return to it every once in a while and remember those 13 years were long but they had a purpose.
Will the next ten years be just as long? I don’t know. But I do know that I’ve finally reached a point where I feel good about where I am–where I’m not beating myself up about not having saved more money or wishing I had started writing earlier, etc. Somehow, at age 44, and after working at 35 jobs, I’m okay with where I am. This is no small feat. This is huge for someone as perfectionistic and critical as I am.
Maybe it was going to Iceland last month and having my body clock and world view shaken up in a good way?
Maybe it was returning to Seattle and feeling so grateful to be back?
Maybe it was becoming a morning person after decades of being a night owl and major sleeper?
Maybe it’s a combination of all three and then some?
I don’t know the exact thing that turned, that clicked over, that flipped the switch for me, but I do know that it happened.
Six months ago, I didn’t know what would happen when I jumped off the cliff. I dove in and the cold of the water was a shock, but now it feels normal. What also feels normal is accepting that I vacillate between believing I’m a good writer, thinking I just can’t do it, and everything in between. I realize now it’s all part of the growing pains of being a writer, and of being a creator. It might not ever go away, but I’m okay with it.
I’m going to dive into writing for the next ten years.
It’s not the easy path. It scares me. But it’s so beautiful down here, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
Peg Cheng is the author of The Contenders, a middle-grade novel centered on the question, can enemies become friends? She is currently writing another novel that is a re-imagining of the Snow White fairy tale set in 1980s Seattle.
Art by Sveta Dorosheva.
Mary Bell says
I love the illustration you chose showing the deep breath needed after diving in. I know that it’s a long process and 10 years sounds realistic to me. You’re off to a good start! Who knows what adventures you’ll have down in the deep blue. I’m with you 100 per cent floundering in the swirling depths.😳
Peg Cheng says
Thank you, Mary! I’m glad that you think 10 years is a realistic amount of time too. You are one of three key people that knows my writing really well, so it’s reassuring to see you say that you think I’m off to a good start. See you in the deep blue, my friend.
Edgy Cosgrove says
What strikes me about the drawing is a kind of Jungian algebra: you dive into the unconscious water, and a fish is equated into the world of air–the fish being an original creation, like a drawing or a novel. A kind of immersive fishing that you can’t do standing on the bank. (I suspect the thriller writers you refer to in the next post about Pitch Fest are bank fishers.) Anyway, I so respect your commitment to the long journey–and thanks for sending us the cool postcards.
Peg Cheng says
You have a way with words, Edgy. I loved reading your latest thoughts. Only you could put together “Jungian algebra,” “unconscious,” and “fish” in the same sentence. DANG. I fully expect to see you in the Down Deep next time I go swimming. And you’re welcome for the postcards.
Thank you, Cubby, what a lovely thing to say. Actually, I think I had some help with “algebra”: last week we were drinking grape juice with friends and got a little silly–we danced to the funk classic “Car Wash,” and the “car” dancers had to pass through the “car wash” dancers. From there, the playlist devolved to Tom Waits’ classic, “Pasties and a G String,” which includes a line about “Chinese algebra.” So I think my subconscious was primed.
Maybe you will see me down in the pond–I think I’m more at home there than in the world of air and striving. Meanwhile, keep your cards and letters coming!
Peg Cheng says
Ha ha! Wish I could have been a fly on the wall during the Car Wash line dance. Reminds me of when I was a kid watching Soul Train. See you in the pond, my friend!