I get the same question quite often: Is it worth it?
Is it worth the long nights sequestered in your office?
Is it worth missing out on time with friends and family, community events?
Is it worth losing time to your hobbies?
Is it worth a cluttered house, a sink full of dishes, yet another meal consisting of something frozen?
Yes. A million times yes.
I have always been in love with the written word. As a child, I would read anything and everything I could get my hands on. I remember one time in 2nd grade when I tried to check out Dracula from the elementary library. The librarian refused to let me take it out, and my parents had a word with her. They trusted me to make the decision on what I was mature enough to read. In 3rd grade, my reading material during the Iowa Basic testing was Gone With the Wind and Scarlett. By the time I was in 4th grade, I was reading every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. That year, in the second semester, we had a contest to see who could read the most pages. We could buy prizes, based on how many we read. I blew the competition out of the water.
That’s not to say I didn’t stick to the more age appropriate books. I devoured the American Girl series, even though I would finish one in half an hour. I stole my little brothers Animorphs books, and every new Goosebumps book in the Scholastic Book Fair send home fliers became mine.
In 6th grade, Alicia Appleman-Jurman visited our school to do a talk about her memoir of WWII. For the elementary kids, we had a child-friendly version, where she talked to us about her children’s book, 6 Cherry Blossoms. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear her talk about her novel, since I had loved The Diary of Anne Frank and Number the Stars. So my dad took me to another talk she did nearby, and I was the only person there under the age of 20. I still have my autographed copy of her book somewhere, and I cherish the fact that I had the chance to sit and talk with her.
I never stopped reading, although adulthood made it a little more difficult. In Junior High, I dove into writing. I spent an entire year creating a Hanson fan-fiction that took up 3 spiral bound notebooks and was absolutely terrible. But I didn’t care, because I was creating.
For years, I lost my way. I didn’t write anything. But I found role-playing, and that made up for it somewhat. I would spend hours crafting tales about my characters, writing vignettes about their lives, always looking for new and fascinating roleplay opportunities. Even then, my interactions often happened online, so it was more writing than acting.
In 2006, I discovered NaNoWriMo, and I found my passion again. That first novel was awful and I never finished it, but sometimes it still pops back up in my mind as something I should see through to the end. There would be months where I would fall off the wagon, and I wouldn’t create anything. Looking back, I always see those as some of my darkest times.
In 2011, I went to my first Writer’s Workshop, with the first chapter of aforementioned novel. My critiquing authors ripped it to shreds. I was disappointed, but ultimately, I agreed with everything they said. Not long after, I ran into one of the authors at the Farmer’s Market, and we talked about it a bit more. She said something to me that really resonated with me.
“We wouldn’t have been so harsh with your piece, if we didn’t think you could do better.”
Two years later, after a baby and many classes, I went back to that workshop with a fun short story. The same author told me that she would publish it in a heartbeat, if she had a place for it. It ended up being my first professionally published piece.
Somewhere in there, I decided that this was what I wanted to do with my life. Write, create, explore new worlds. Make a difference with my words, or at least offer some entertainment. It’s never been about money or making it big, it’s always been about the fact that I am happiest when I’m writing.
It’s not easy, and anyone who tells you that is lying. It’s hard, and sometimes it’s heart-breaking. It’s frustrating, when the words are in your mind and you can’t pull them out. It’s infuriating when you go back to read something and you hate every word, and you have to fight the desire to move that file to the recycle bin and go find a nice 9-5 job.
I don’t write because I want to. I write because I have to. Because a world where I don’t write is one I don’t want to be part of.
I have a lot of projects that I juggle. Right now, it’s working on Werewolf: The Apocalypse. I always said I wanted to write roleplaying books, and influence people the way I was influenced by these games. This has been an amazing experience for me. The team is fantastic, and I know that my writing is improving. I’m being pushed constantly, and it’s amazing. I’m proud of everyone I’ve worked with, and I’m proud of me.
I constantly suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and it’s hard. Days where I look at what I’ve written and I wonder why I even bother. Moments when I question why I am doing what I’m doing, questioning if I deserve it. These moments pass quickly, when I write some line or piece of dialogue where I sit back and say, “That’s fucking awesome. I’m a rockstar.”
Is it worth it? For me, absolutely. I carve out time for my family, and I always take time to dance with my son and eat icecream on the couch with him. While I don’t see my friends as often as I’d like, I endeavor to make those moments brilliant, and I am blessed with a tribe that understands. So all of those sacrifices I make, all of the dishes in the sink, and meals served on paper plates, and stuffed animals strewn all over the house…yeah, they’re worth it.
Writing is more than a career to me. I know it’s not ever going to be something that makes me a ton of money. That’s not what it’s about. I write because I must, and because sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps the demons and anxiety at bay.
If you ask me, “Is it worth it?” I will always tell you yes. I’ll tell you about all of the realities, all of the frustration and heartbreak and anxiety. And then I’ll tell you about the thrill of sending off a finished piece, and the exhiliration when you meet a new character for the first time and they are just right.
Is it worth it? Always.