Do you have a Plan B? We all hope our dreams will come true, but what if they don’t? Do you have a back-up plan that, while not perfect, will still make you reasonably happy?
I once met this guy who worked as a waiter in a small northern town. He played drums in his spare time, and he was actually pretty good. When we started talking careers (we were in our late teens then), this guy had no doubts about where the future would take him.
“I’m gonna be a rock star,” he said.
While I love that kind of ballsy self-confidence, I was a bit surprised. After all, we were nineteen, not twelve. What about “I’m going to cut a few demos, shop them around, and try to get a record deal. In the meantime, I’m going to get enough money to support my dream of one day playing in stadiums and arenas”?
I’m not proud of this, but my inner realist kicked into gear. “What about learning sound editing? Or getting a career behind the scenes in the music industry, just to be close to what you love while you fight your way to the top?” I asked. The idea of not having a back-up plan spooked the hell out of me, even in my young, idealistic days.
“Nope,” he replied. “None of that stuff interests me. I’m gonna be a rock star.”
I’ve always known what I was meant to do with my life: write novels. I’ve also always had a Plan B: to work in the writing field in some way while I worked to get a book published on the side. For awhile, my day job of choice was print journalism. And I loved it. I was good at it, but maybe a little too good. I got so focused on being a journalist that my fiction writing was non-existent for years. Plan Bs aren’t great when they stand in the way of achieving Plan A.
What freaks me out is that I don’t have a Plan B anymore. Working in journalism isn’t a great option right now, with so many newspapers going the way of the dodo bird, and I’d already figured out that it wasn’t helpful for my fiction writing. For the last few years, I’ve worked in communications, but I can’t say I enjoy it. I don’t care for the lack of flexibility, the office politics, or being chained to a desk eight hours a day. One thing I loved about being a freelancer is that when my work was done, I could do something else. I didn’t have to continue to sit at my desk finding things to do when I could be working out or going for drinks with friends. It was awesome to have that much freedom, and I’m really glad I had that experience.
The problem is, what if I don’t get published? I’d love to believe 100 percent that it is going to happen for me, and sometimes I do, but that pesky realistic side always rears her ugly head. I don’t want to look back on my life and realize I spent the majority of it in an office, sitting behind a desk, writing things that require little of my talent or creativity. Many of the other careers that interest me–psychology, marine biology, etc.–would require going back to school for years, and the idea of entering my forties deep in debt and starting at the beginning again is just too depressing. That said, I haven’t done enough investigation to know I’d actually like those careers. And would going back to school to pursue a major degree or four hinder my writing? Most likely.
I will be out of debt by next October. When that milestone happens, a lot more doors will open for me, and I’ll be able to take risks that I can’t justify right now. I’ve committed to giving my writing career everything I have to give for the next few years, but if after that time I’m still in the same place, I’m going to have to take a long, hard look at finding another Plan B. Even today I’d feel better if I knew it was in the sidelines, waiting to catch me if I fall.
Novel pages written: TBD