Thoughts on writing at the intersection of vocation and profession 

Something about this piece on writing by Lydia Kiesling hit me a deep level. I read it in The Cut’s “Write It” series. It’s called “What Drives Me to Write?” I related to the parts about writing for love versus writing for money. She writes:

Treat it like a job and Divorce it utterly from all notions of a job: Both things are true.

Doing that can be difficult, especially when you want it so bad. It being to publish. To finish. And, perhaps, to be seen. That last part is what came up for me.

She goes on:

During that period [of writing her novel], I remember standing in the shower, nearly weeping with desperation for my book to be done. I have never wanted anything else in quite the same way. There was something both abject and muscular to the wanting, one aspect that felt unseemly — like pride and vanity — and another one more connected to survival, to the promise of relief.

The survival she writes about hit a visceral note for me. I understand now that survival means more than I ever realized. Survival, as in, keeping a part of me alight and alive inside as I navigated the external world and also the sometimes confusing internal landscape formed over decades from childhood.

I couldn’t not write but at the same time I couldn’t seem to consistently write what was desired “out there.” “Out there” being a big projection of my own, of course. None of this is helped by “positive thinking” or “goal setting,” terms that imply, in this context, the need to get somewhere else. Those things can make it so much worse by constantly taking you in directions away from yourself. (Goals are good for certain things, but not this.) Instead, holding the tension of my struggle—staying at that intersection—is the movement that connects me deeply to myself. It is actually the only place I needed “to go.”

Towards the end of her essay she adds:

That my vocation and my profession have ever overlapped is a gift. What matters is how to keep going.

I love the string of words “have ever overlapped” because they describe getting to write what you want to write and having the business side of life meet you, see you and, yes, even pay you. But I like it more because it’s a metaphor, too, a proxy for seeing oneself and one’s value for who they (you, me) truly are that, paradoxically, has nothing to do with the business side. Or, maybe not so paradoxically.

If you are struggling with your writing, for whatever reason, know this: In some way your words will reach others and be meaningful to them. That they will read your writing in whatever form and be moved in their own way. Perhaps you are the person who most needs to be moved by your own work.

In any case, you really should read it. See where it takes you.

Photo by Burak K

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