Friday, October 30, 2009

Looking Over the Rail: Life Course Changes

Not much progress on the website. I'm a writer, not a webmaster!

Oh well.

Back to stuff about writing. One of the tough things about any kind of work or really anything is how to enact necessary changes. Dean Wesley Smith put it very nicely in the master's class--life is like an ocean liner. It can't turn on a dime. My corollary--you personally can turn on a dime, but it'll involve jumping ship. What does the ship represent? Family. Job. Home. Financial and social obligations. Your life as you know it, and all the ties that connect you to the world around you. The more you're willing to give up, the faster you can change.

A fast change isn't necessarily a good one, though, and it may not be lasting. In fact, you may crash and end up managing nothing but the damage you've caused yourself and others (if they don't abandon you entirely--and financial institutions will of course haunt you.) You'll have escaped into a storm, not the future you wanted. Going back to the jumping ship analogy, you have a moment of freedom--freefall--scary and exhilarating and, if you're that sort, fun. Then you hit the water. Slam. Culture shock, as in your own personal culture is no longer accessible and you're a stranger in a world completely alien to you. Shock from damage. Damage you cause yourself, financially, emotionally, maybe even physically (but I thought living in a cardboard box would work--why am I having to deal with frostbite?) Shock as you realize that big change is hard, and that now you have to swim. Staying afloat isn't a stasis situation anymore. Or, if the ship was sinking, at least it was sinking slow and now ...

Some people deal with shock better than others. They can run away to Europe and start hitchhiking, just getting by, and never look back on their old lives. They can ignore their family and work sixteen hours in their office every day, only surfacing for junk food, and not suffer from the resentment, or ensuing divorce, or the guilt if a child gets hurt and they don't notice for three hours. Each course change a person sets has positive and negative effects, foreseen and unforeseen. The bigger the change, the more effects there will be. If you can't deal with those side effects, you may try to climb back onboard. But the ship may have already gone on its way. Even if it hasn't, it may not be possible to get back on unless someone throws you line. And if you do make it, you can bet your status on that ship will have changed.

I'm not saying if you need a big change, don't jump ship. But consider how much you can handle, and whether or not you're willing to lose everything. A slow change may be more manageable, and more sane, and you may be able to adapt more easily to those unforeseen circumstances as they come up.

Sometimes there isn't a choice. Sometimes a lifestyle change is what you need to save your life, or to give yourself a shot at a future you want to live to see. Maybe those two things are the same. And maybe your ship has run aground and the only way to move forward is to get off. Anyway, as a model this works really well for me. I'll look at my decisions in a whole new way. Maybe it'll make me a more effective writer, and a more effective human being.


The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I’m what most would call a woman on the verge and that is because of the big change. I gave up a saturated market of insatiable decorators for the solitary life of a romance novelist only to discover that what I’m selling no agent wants. I’m not ready to jump ship yet for I love my stories but if I don’t find an agent/publisher real soon I’ll have to find an alternative. You write really well.
Thanks for sharing

Kami said...

Thanks for your sharing your experience, TRQLatHEA. I wish you the best of luck! Sending good thoughts your way ... and hang in there!