Ending the Self-Doubt Excuses
Friday, May 9, 2014 at 04:12PM
J Starr Welty

It has been years since I've posted here, though not years since I've written anything. I have written less, mostly scientific essays, but that is changing. Thank goodness. What began as a career shift has turned into a life altering move that is both exciting and frightening. Many things led up to this moment, much work, many tears, bloody fists of frustration, self-doubt, elated moments, disbelief, and vast joy. I regret nothing. What I have come to discover in most recent weeks is that I don't have to leave one dream behind in order to pursue another. I just have to change.

In the Fall of 2010 I went back to college to finish my degree in Biology. I left my full time management job, quit teaching martial arts, and stopped writing every day because of a shift in priorities. I keep myself to high standards, and even though one can get a degree with a vast array of grades, I refused to allow myself to do that. So I studied rigorously and obsessively. I got a job in a lab, at first to help with finances, but then to give myself experience to better my chances once I graduated.

What suffered most was my creative writing. I missed it every day. At times I would attempt to edit one of my books, but that never lasted. I was too overwhelmed with coursework, and I was not consistent with an editing regimen. As time wore on, my motivation towards maintaining my books slid further away. It saddened me, but I began to consider that maybe this was a part of me I just had to let go of. I was becoming a scientist. I was into academics now. There was no time to write like I used to. The one luxury that the "starving artist" lifestyle of retail management had afforded me was the freedom in the evenings and on weekends to spend hours immersing myself in my own creative endeavors. Now that career was gone, and I had to move on.

I had planned on becoming a lab tech with a Bachelor's degree. After working alongside one, however, I realized I wouldn't be any better off financially than I had been in retail management, so I reconsidered my options. A PhD in biomedical sciences was an option, and it would allow me to continue my education with a full stipend while helping me increase my options for better employment. Getting into a PhD program, however, was extremely difficult as there were few positions open, and thousands of students competed for them. My stubbornness prevailed, and after two years of rigorous applications, additional coursework, and research, I was accepted into a program. My sacrifices paid off! I readied myself for five more years of intense studying and training in genetics.

And then I pulled an all-nighter at my lab. I had little to do but take samples, so I thought, "What the heck, I'll pick at 'The Vein to Gainsay'.". ('Vein' is the sequel to 'Zurigan's Child'.) Thirty pages later at 4am I was wondering what all my excuses had been. I could have been working on this a chapter a week. A chapter a MONTH! I could have been done editing it! I'd originally written and edited this book within a year after writing 'Zurigan's Child' (over a decade ago), and I had planned on editing it one final time before formatting it to self-publish on Amazon, so WHAT THE HELL TOOK SO LONG?!

It's difficult to not be hard on myself because of the expectations I set for my own goals. It's easy to look back over the last 3 years and say, "I had plenty of time to work on this! I couldn't have been studying ALL the time! Surely I had at least an hour of free time every once in a while!". Then I remember when I had those hours of free time, and how Tarl would plead with me to please rest and take care of myself. I remember how exhausted and stressed I was trying to meet deadline after deadline and never having enough time or energy to get things done. I remember what is typical of an overachieving undergraduate lifestyle because I had to prove something. I had to prove that giving up my expensive apartment, my "top dog" management position, my "Sensei" title, my writing obsession, I had to prove that I had made the right decision and that I could do this. At 36 years old, I could do this.

I also remember the excuses. When I had time, and I was rested, I remember thinking the downer thoughts. "No one will read these books anyway." "I only really ever wrote them for me, so what does it matter if the series is ever finished?" "I might die tomorrow, so what's the big deal? I should enjoy life instead of pushing myself so hard." I forgot that part of my enjoyment in life WAS writing. It wasn't all about others reading my work, or getting published, or selling copies on Amazon, or even finishing a series. It was writing itself, creating worlds, becoming characters and designing their minds, surprising myself with what happens even though I am the omniscient presence in the realm of these beings that I can't even seem to puppeteer. The enjoyment was in imagining the story while driving to work, hearing a particular song and being inspired to pen a scene, lulling myself to sleep by running through portions of a book in my mind to trigger dreams. No excuse was worth putting that off any longer.

So I dove back in. I am editing every day, at least a chapter a day. In the Fall I'm going to follow the advice of my graduate peers when they say, "Make sure you have something to do that you love outside of school. It will keep you sane." I will keep myself sane. I will keep writing, but I'll be realistic about it.  If I need "rest time", I'll take it.  If it's more of "excuse time", then the laptop will come out.  I feel now I can recognize the difference, and not be so hard on myself.  I feel like I have honest and realistic expectations of my dreams, and can enjoy what should be enjoyed on this path I've chosen.  Whether or not others want to partake is up to them.  I'm still a little sad that my career isn't as a professional writer, but, heck, now I'm getting a PhD in molecular genetics!  


Article originally appeared on Author J Starr Welty (http://jstarrwelty.com/).
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