Since my decision a month ago to commit more of my energy and attention to becoming a published fiction writer, I’ve been working on how to better balance the different parts of myself and my identity. In other words, I’ve been trying to figure out what else about myself is changing as a result of this decision.
My perception of my identity has gone through several stages, often tied (as with so many other folks in the U.S.) to my desired job. When I was quite young, I wanted to be a paleontologist. In middle school and the early years of high school, my focus shifted to becoming a planetary scientist working on Mars exploration. Towards the very end of high school, two new interests emerged and played a bigger role in my life: policy and writing. (I’d enjoyed writing for some time before then, but it wasn’t until senior year of high school that I seriously considered the idea of actually being a writer.) During undergraduate, I focused more on the policy side of things, figuring it was a safer career bet than writing. That didn’t keep me from submitting a few science fiction pieces for publication or from discovering how much I enjoyed screenwriting, though.
Since the end of undergrad, it’s been a blizzard of teaching English, then moving into policy writing, then graduate work, then more policy writing. And now I’m here.
There are also other parts of my identity that have stayed constant throughout the years: fiction-lover, geek, Lego enthusiast. And there are parts that have developed, the two most notable being my growth from a guy with crushes into a husband and my necessary transition from student-hood into actual adulthood with all of its attendant responsibilities.
Within my social circle, the amount of flux surrounding the job-related part of identity has been fairly common. That’s likely a combination of who I’m likely to befriend, the general state of affairs for the Millennial generation, and the intersections of privilege that run through my life and, to varying degrees, my friends’, enabling the flexibility and ability to envision many (often vastly different) futures for ourselves.
For me, there’s been something a little scary about declaring my intention to become a published fiction writer. It’s a step into a public life (granted, not necessarily one with a huge public) that’s very different from what I’ve done before now. All those years of self-talk that simultaneously romanticized being a fiction author and wrote it off as financially unfeasible are running into the building conviction that this is something I really should do.
The good news, I think, is that the side of me that wanted to take the jump has won. It has meant a reshuffling of my life as I impose greater self-discipline on my previously unstructured time. That’s OK, though. If anything, it’s helped me build more structure into the rest of my life, helping me be a better adult and a better husband.
That’s perhaps been the most surprising part of all this. The conscious decision to expand this part of myself from a dream to a significant part of my lived reality has helped me be better about taking charge of other parts of myself. There’s no doubt some deeper cause-and-effect in all this, what with the writer decision being a product in part of sudden and unexpected instability in my day job. So far, at least, this appears to be a good thing for my growth as a person (if not as good for the family income).