Writing does not (yet) pay my bills. I work at a hospital. Not in an awesome saving-lives-with-my-scalpel-before-I-take-them-with-my-pen kind of way—mostly, I make posters. Technically I’m a graphic designer, but that title implies a certain level of, like, ART.
This says some stuff about me. In my days of being educated (deliberately passive—I didn’t so much learn as have learning thrust upon me) I was objectively pretty good at the writing of essays and the remembering of formulas. Also objectively, even my stick figures sucked, and I was painfully, painfully shy.
Thus, to the eternal horror of my mother, I eschewed with a firm hand those things I could have done fairly well, for things in which I have no talent at all. The only way I could have a job less suited to my innate abilities would be by becoming a Broadway actor, but my location has so far precluded the urge. You may thank me at your leisure.
Sometimes, though, this causes me to worry that I write because a primary school teacher once told me a story of mine was “crappy trash”… even though, to be 100% honest—and this is something I never confessed to my parents, even though my brother and I both switched schools over it—the first half of the story in question was copied out of a book on writing. This probably should have made me feel better, since it wasn’t technically my work being insulted, but I was so outraged that a teacher would say that to a self-esteem challenged 12-year-old over anything, let alone a story plagiarised from a book on how to write good stories, that I rode the train as if it were my own—even when it turned out it went all the way to Private Girls’ School.
(Ladies and gentlemen: my karma! Dispensed swiftly and without mercy since 1982.)
This is not to say that I’m a terrible graphic designer. I can be worked into a convincing lather over white space and over-enthusiastic typography, and I’ve been known to spend entire days obsessing over line spacing. I worked hard to get good enough to have a job where, on the most basic level, I get paid to make stuff pretty. I still can’t draw, but that’s what Photoshop is for.
And it’s been good for me as a writer—partly because I have to be creative on cue, but mostly because it’s forced me to GET OVER MYSELF. The first time someone asked me for a poster by ‘sometime after lunch’, I almost wet my pants in horror. Finished? That people would look at? What if it wasn’t perfect? What if they judged me? What if it wasn’t my best possible work ever? I have issues with perfectionism. And letting go. (And phat with a PH, but that’s neither here nor there.)
Graphic design has taught me that there comes a point when you just have to put yourself out there. I’m still not very good at it, but I know that in order to get anywhere as a writer, you not only have to write something, but actually LET PEOPLE READ IT. Or, at least, you have to send out your beleaguered second draft and beg for feedback in order to improve it. If I wasn’t forced to put my creative nuts on the block daily at work, I think I’d still be paralysed by the thought of letting my characters and words out to mingle in the world, unfinished and imperfect as they are.
But! I am not! I have grown and matured as a person and as a writer! I am suave, and confident, and brazen in my ambition. In fact, I’m SO self-confident that I’ve added almost everyone I went to high school with on Facebook, just so they can see how awesome and well-adjusted I turned out…