I'm not a fish flopping around on the boat, struggling to pull through my gills water that isn't there. That's the image Jon Morrow would have you imagine for people like myself: writers who don't get to write. In his very poignant piece, Morrow talks about the nightmares and pain stuck in a life he didn’t really enjoy, until he let go and gave himself to wordcraft.
I think anyone with a passion they’ve stifled can sympathize, but I don’t agree with his conclusions of advice to writers-who-could.
Contrasted to Morrow’s do-or-die struggles and deep dive to arguable save his life, I’m reminded of the always articulate Matt Gemmell’s announcement at the start of 2014 that he would be shifting to writing full-time and no longer continuing his successful programming career or his seven year self-employed stint in the Apple universe.
Look at the different ways these two writers describe their life away from writing.
My subconscious was trying to warn me that I was suffocating, just like a fish.
all fell by the wayside when I became really interested in programming
There is an frantic nature to Morrow’s history before going at writing full-time that contrasts immensely to the gradual realizations Gemmell reveals. But beyond this, the difference I notice most is a projection that screams from Morrow and is completely absent from Gemmell.
Jon Morrow doesn’t write about his own realizations of purpose except as a backdrop addressing “Writers struggling to find their courage”. I find this characterization presumptuous and quite possibly reaching. Maybe he needs to share this feeling of imprisonment with others, so that a shared appreciation of escape can be had?
Instead, I find myself connecting far more with Gemmell’s position and path. That isn’t to say that I’m not going to code anymore, or that I’m turning my life into something new and becoming a writer first and foremost. Just the opposite, in fact. It is not Gemmell’s decision to leave programming and write full-time that I relate to, but the casual nature by which he seemed to come to it that I relate to.
Instead of the frantic fear I read from Morrow, in Gemmell I see someone who is not diving in head first, but is taking stock of his surroundings and just being honest about where he already is. I see someone who is able to bridge two different kinds of lives with a grace that is refreshing among advice that such change requires risks that many of us really can’t afford to take.
And that’s okay.
I am a firm believer that there is no inherent value in those kind of big risks being taken. They hold a position of esteem that, to me, just hides the problems that push people to this edge in the first place. (But this is for another discussion)
So I’m not here announcing some big life change, just a small one I’m observing. I’m writing more again, lately. I like that. I’ve been writing more every day, and I feel happier for it. I’m not letting it take over my life, and I’m happy for that, too. I don’t think I need to give up everything else I love to pursue writing more seriously. I’m a firm believer that dedicating your life to one pursuit, while often seen as noble and honorable, is a waste of potential.
The breadth and depth of a human life is perfectly sufficient for being passionate of many things.
The the flying fish that soars through both ocean and sky, there are many people who have deeply engaged lives filled with creativities beside their office jobs and they like their office job, too. There are people who write and publish and wonder when they’ll have time to paint, so they do that on the side. There are people who spend all day getting tired in labor intensive jobs and really genuinely enjoy them and come home and hack on open source.
I reject the falsehood that passion requires isolation.