This is a conversation I have had quite often:
“How do I get to do what you do?” I am asked.
“What exactly do you mean?”
How do I get a book published? How do I get paid to teach writing? How do I get likes on Facebook? How? How? How?
Where do I begin? What do I say?
I started this journey way back. Way, way back when I first started writing in fourth grade. Like most people, I had a mild flirtation with it at first. And then I got serious. And then I had an on-again-off-again relationship with it for years. And during that time there were some failures and a few successes. Oh, and during all that, I cleaned a lot of houses that did not belong to me.
“How do I get to do what you do?”
You don’t. You get to do what you do. Maybe they’ll look similar. Maybe not. I never thought I’d be teaching writing. It wasn’t part of the plan. The plan was to be a writer, not a teacher. Now I’m both. And I’m glad. I can’t imagine one without the other.
My point is that everything in my life has helped me get to where I am now, and where I am now is not at all what I imagined. I imagined I’d be a best selling author by now, that I’d own a house by now, that I’d have more books written and published by now, that I’d be a name everyone recognizes, and so on. You know the dream. Chances are you’ve had it too. You might even be looking at what you see of my life and saying to yourself, “That’s where I want to be. I want what Nancy has.”
But it’s fairly useless to look at any writer or artist with a tinge of jealousy, just as it’s useless to ask, “How do I get to where you are now?” Because you can’t. Your life might acquire some similarities. You might have some books published, you might get some of the same sort of attention that I have received. You might even receive more. But similarities are not the same as path. You have your own path. We might each have spouses, and marriages, but they are different spouses and different marriages. Having them has everything to do with the path we were on, how we met our spouses and courted them. This is true for your writing life too. My path included cleaning other people’s houses. Sometimes when I am asked, “How do I get to do what you do?” I want to put a feather duster in that person’s hand.
There is no map. You can’t get a checklist of what to do to propel yourself onto another person’s path. You have your own path, and the fact is, if you’re writing, you’re on it. You’re just not where you think you ought to be. I understand. I didn’t think I was where I ought to be either when I was chasing other people’s pubic hairs down drains. The thing is I was wrong. I was exactly where I ought to have been. I wrote a book about it.
Set your feet firmly on your path, not mine.