When you secretly ask people about their life’s regret they might say
“I wish I had followed my heart”,
Or “I wish I didn’t give up on being a writer”,
Or maybe “I wish I had left it all behind to become an artist”.
Well that is certainly not the case for me. Here’s why.
The biggest myth about the struggling artist is that people tend to look up at the artist part and not the struggle part of the sentence. Back in the happy-oh-so-perfect days of the 18th and 19th centuries there were those individuals who wrote for a living, willingly living through any possible situation as long as they could be true to their art and keep writing. This is a common misunderstanding but here are some things to consider.
- Life was much cheaper and simple back than
- You never hear about the failed ones because they were never published
- There were no real alternatives to books and there was little piracy
- Most of the world’s population couldn’t read or write
- If you were able to read or write it means that you were part of higher society and that means that you were not struggling that much.
- Some artist had patrons or came from wealth
This romanticizing has to stop because it has nothing to do with real life in the 21th‘ century. These days you have movies, books, EBooks, blogs, TV series, Computer games, Apps, Porn and what not. Each is competing over the attention of its target audience and the competition is getting worse and worse.
You can’t just expect to make a living out of writing during your first years in modern economy. Some “famous” writers will still have to keep a half time job or a teaching job just to keep a regular income flow. Don’t forget the travelling and giving lectures is also part of earning back some $$$.
I am in great favor for life experience over writing experience (I’ll discuss this in a future post). I think that taking part in the common struggles of daily life will make you a better writer because you would be able to relate to the “non-writing people’s” real life problems and difficulties. I wouldn’t recommend putting yourself in danger or misery just so you’d produce a better novel. Life will take care of that anyhow and troubles will always find you no matter what. That’s life.
Consider writing while you’re sick, homeless, out of job, out of friends or family in a remote country. There’s no safety net under you, you’re under a lot of stress, under physical stress maybe, hunger even. How can you concentrate on writing instead of doing something to improve your condition?
Remember that part in The Dark Knight Rises where Christian Bale has to make a leap for his life and only succeeds when he’s not attached by a safety rope? Don’t try it at home.
Life will take you on different adventures, risky situations, even dangerous ones. If you can write about those experiences later you hit the jackpot. If you can travel the world, immerse in different cultures or learn a new ability, go for it. If you can enrich your life in any possible way, do it. Just don’t go looking for trouble when you shouldn’t, only so you can write about it later. Don’t think that by renting a basement apartment and spending 5$ a day on food will help you concentrate, finish and sell your novel/screenplay because you “gave it everything you had”.
Yes, some have done it, so many didn’t. Sometimes the most profound experiences and insights come from observing and living the normal day to day life. If you could enrich your readers’ reality by discovering the little truths about life, that would be such an impact on your life and on many others.
I think that the real courage is doing something special with the mundane instead of finding something that is already special and just writing about it.