“There’s no shame in being a starving artist”

From “‘Mad Men’ Creator Matthew Weiner’s Reassuring Life Advice For Struggling Artists”:

It took seven years from the time I wrote Mad Men until it finally got on the screen. I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you have to have.

Seven years. Somehow that sounds like both an eternity and no time at all.

I have the kind of faith that he’s talking about. I don’t think about it much, but it’s there. Automatic, like breathing. Only occasionally a struggle, like breathing.

Looking back on my posts here, a clear pattern emerges: I’m almost there. This is going to be the year, I can feel it. I’ve said that time after time after time. Is it folly to believe in something that never happens?

You’re only wrong until you’re right.

The most defeatist thing I hear is, “I’m going to give it a couple of years.” You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer. You should want it so badly that you don’t have a choice. You have to commit for the long haul.

When I quit my job, I gave myself a year. I thought, If I’m not agented and/or published by then, I can still look for work without any issue. I’m young, and I’ll barely have been “out of the game” for any time at all.

But a year passed. Then another. Then another. I found ways to justify putting off the job search. Little milestones to hang my hat on, and to fuel another round of “just give me a few more months.”

Maybe I always knew I wasn’t going back. Maybe I don’t want a Plan B.

The greatest regret I have is that, early in my career, I showed myself such cruelty for not having accomplished anything significant. I spent so much time trying to write, but was paralyzed by how behind I felt.

Am I cruel to myself? Sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, though, because I’m overly generous to myself too, haha. There has to be a balance, right?

Well, that balance would probably be healthier and more productive if it weren’t so extreme. Both ends of the spectrum lead to their own kinds of paralysis.

Also, how are we defining “significant”? A couple weeks ago, I had a sort of wake-up call. (Not for the first time, nor for the last, I’m sure.) A friend who is now interested in writing kept remarking on my achievements, saying how much he admired me. I brushed off his words — not out of modesty, but out of genuine disbelief and puzzlement. Me? Achievements? What? Where?

But after a while, I tried to let the compliments through. Tried to give them a fair chance instead of swatting them away without consideration. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but maybe I should give myself credit for getting to where I am. Maybe I should appreciate this part of the journey.

And maybe this is the year. Breathe in, breathe out.

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7 Comments

  1. You have accomplished a lot! Don’t sell yourself short. I totally admire your dedication to the craft. I hope it’s this year for you – if not, I’m certain it will come eventually

    • Thank you! I think sometimes we’re just so focused on what’s in front of us that we forget to tally/savor what’s behind, you know? I’m working on it, though!

  2. “The most defeatist thing I hear is, ‘I’m going to give it a couple of years.’ You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer.”

    I agree. If that’s your idea of commitment, just quit at the beginning. :-) Would you approach any other major life commitment that way? Marriage, kids, a pet, the desire for an athletic championship? You’re in or you’re out.

    “There is no clock on my business!” (Rooster Cogburn)

  3. You’re full of both accomplishments and wisdom! I love seeing your journey, and I can see very clearly that you’re going places :)

    • Thanks, Tria! That means a lot coming from you, someone who is also so creative and driven. <3

  4. Oh boy, did I need to read this. I can’t even count how many times I’ve told myself “this is the year … the is finally the year.” And you know, even though those weren’t the year, not in the way I was hoping and working for, that doesn’t mean they didn’t bring with them their own accomplishments. I think it’s so easy to get wrapped up in what we yearn for that we overlook what we’ve achieved. Thank you for the reminder to celebrate every part of the journey. As for your journey – I hope you DO celebrate its milestones, because surely there have been plenty. Your passion shows through in every word.

    (Also: I am woefully behind in blog posts, so sorry for the late comment!)

    • (No worries!)

      “even though those weren’t the year, not in the way I was hoping and working for, that doesn’t mean they didn’t bring with them their own accomplishments”

      Exactly! I’m glad I could remind you, because so often you and your blog posts are what remind me too. :)

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