What I’m Glad I Didn’t Know When I Decided to Become a Writer

This week at the SFF Seven we’re discussing what we wish we’d known when we decided we wanted to write.

It’s an interesting question, and a fraught one. I first decided that being a writer would be the perfect career for me back in 1993. That’s almost 30 years ago, so it isn’t easy to think back to that younger self. At the time, I was completing a Ph.D. in neurophysiology and confronting the bald truth that I didn’t really want to be a research scientist. I sat myself down, meditated, and asked the question: if I took away all the if’s and’s and but’s, what would be the ideal life.

No one was more surprised than I was to hear that the answer was to be a writer. But I also knew it was a true answer and that, if I wanted to be happy, I had to do whatever it took to make that come true.

So, I cut bait on my Ph.D., got a Masters and a job as an editor/writer to start building my chops. I took night classes from visiting writers. I began writing, something, anything.

What do I wish I’d known then? It’s tempting to say I wish I’d known how long it would take before I truly began earning a living as an author. My conception then of how long it would take was absolutely the largest lacunae of ignorance in my hopeful moonscape. I thought it would be a couple of years, not a couple of decades. I totally thought I’d hit it big. I thought my steady progression of successes, for which I am grateful, make no mistake, would have a steeper upward trendline.

And yet… I’m actually glad the younger me didn’t know how protracted that effort would be, how studded with setbacks and pitfalls. Had I known, would I still have done it?

I don’t know.

Sometimes I think our ignorance at the outset of an ambitious enterprise works in our favor. Ignorance truly can be bliss, especially when it allows hope to flourish, hope that carries us through the difficult times.

Maybe what I really wish I’d known back when I made that decision is that it was the right one. But then, I knew that anyway.

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