This is a sort-of-response to aarondb's post about where his life as a writer is going. Because, as with so many things, I'm coming at some of the same sorts of thoughts and situations from a totally different direction.
See, Aaron's one of these people who's always wanted to be a writer. It's obvious to anyone who meets him, that's his one obsession in life: getting things into words. He's chosen to do that, and honed himself like a laser on that one pursuit. He's laid back enough that most people don't notice the intensity that he has, but believe me it's there. He's emblematic of most freelancers (and indeed writers) that I know, who spend most of their lives writing in one form or another because it's what they do.
I've not got that. Or rather, I don't just have that. I have a need to write (anyone who's seen me scribbling notes in the pub knows that), but I can't give up everything else to pursue just that. I have a love of computers and mathematics, and I've got a decent job that lets me put that into practice. If I gave that up to devote myself to writing, I'd not like myself at all. I actually like my job, for the most part, and it gives me a chance to do things I otherwise wouldn't get motivated to do in the first place.
I know it's risky and I know the wisest thing would be to get another full-time job and tap away at the novel when the chances arise.
But there's a sense of opportunity, here. A feeling of Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. It's like I have to harness this energy while it's around and easy to come by.
And that's the bit that hits me. Because ultimately, that's what I'm doing. Whether I'm writing my own stuff or plugging away at a freelance chapter, I'm just filling in the cracks when the chances arise. Admittedly, I make some of those cracks by the age old system of not sleeping and driving myself insane, but I don't have the energy and I don't have that feeling, because it feels like I've already devoted my life to working and hacking systems and fucking with numbers for people. Writing's something I do in my evenings and weekends, and while I do enjoy it I have to be honest with myself and point out that freelancing all that I could still wouldn't be bringing in the ~£18K a year I'm on now. I have these moments when I wonder why I bother writing for cash at all, since it still after these years feels like it's no more than a hobby.
Which is weird, because most people don't have a hobby that acts like an addiction. Most people (who aren't writers) don't compulsively consume paperbacks at a rate of one per week minimum just to keep the brain ticking over and analysing the language. Most people don't spring out of bed at four in the morning with a half-formed scene or a perfect twist to a situation that needs writing right fucking now. That's not a hobby, it's somewhere between a calling and a psychological disorder. And I've got it bad.
I need to write, but I can't take me-as-writer seriously, I can't conceive of dropping the day job and working part time or agency, because then I'd be denying one of my other loves as well as making myself a hell of a lot poorer, simply to make money doing the other thing I love. So instead, I have moments when I feel like I don't know what I'm doing, and moments when I feel like what I'm doing is shite.
But fuck it. I'm self-identifying more and more with at least one facet of the archetype that is the writer. In many ways, I'm as much a writer because of the job — I happily sacrifice lunch breaks, evenings, and weekends, to get words down — as I am despite it. And I'm not just a writer. I can still claim hacker and mathematician without a word of a lie.
But sometimes, it feels like being all of them is less than being one of the three. That's something that does keep my brain ticking over when I'm lying awake with nothing else to think about. Oh well.