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6.22.2009

The Great Hunt

Well, it's that season of my life again: Job Hunting.

I hate it. But, it is a necessary evil.

Seriously, though, I am baffled. Why do companies care what high school I went to? I graduated from it more than a decade ago, and it's about 3,000 miles away. So what does it matter? Ugh. I feel like filling out applications kills a little bit of my soul every time.

Okay, so I'm being melodramatic. I'm just frustrated that I haven't found anything yet. Even the jobs that I've interviewed for aren't making a decision as quickly as I'd like them to. Not to mention, none of the jobs are exactly things I see myself doing for very long.

At this point, well-meaning, good-hearted people always say to me: "What do you want to do?"

And my answer is always a half-hearted, wistful mention of my writing. But I had a revelation lately. Writing isn't a carer for me, either. Not because I haven't been officially published; I'm learning not to look at publication as a "stamp of approval" from the world certifying me as a "real" author anymore. It's just that writing isn't as much a calling as it is a part of me. I write. I can't help myself. Even when I don't have paper or a computer in front of me, I am telling stories. Sometimes they are only in my head--that steady stream of narration that frames who I am and what I'm doing throughout the day.

Still...it would be nice to get published. I read this great book a little while ago called "Bird by Bird" by Anne Lamott, and she talks about how her writing students always come to class wanting to know how they can get their writing into print. And she instead tells them that most likely, their expectations of publication will not come true. It doesn't often bring fame, fortune, and a sense of purpose. But, she says, write anyway. Writing should be its own reward and joy.

It was good for me to be reminded of that. I am trying to use this time of unemployment to work on queries and outlines and revisions (as well as my other stories). But it's because I want to share my stories with the world, not because I need a sense of self. Part of what I love about writing is connecting with other people. Lately, I've been exchanging books and notes with my friends who are also writers. It's not only fun, it's helpful!!

Another thing that has encouraged me is a favorite author of mine. I've been reading a lot of Madeleine L'Engle lately. And I am struck by how she beautifully intertwines the ordinary and the extraordinary, the mundane and the cosmic. I want to be able to write like that, to create and develop characters that really grow and speak and do amazing things.

So, it's not so much that I just want to be a published author; I want to be a really great writer. I want to write things that speak to people and move them to tears and laughter. I am a writer; what I desire is to be really great at it. And that desire is so strong that most other things pale in comparison.

In the end, is that what I've been hunting all along? Maybe.

4 comments:

Sara said...

You're not being melodramatic. It's true. Job searching can be one of the most soul-crushing processes known to man. I've found that during the times in my own life that I have had to job hunt, every business that I entered seemed to crush another piece of me; I felt like an unwanted, stray pup with her tail tucked and her pride gone. You know why? Because it required me to be someone other than my true self. Each time I walked through the doors of the business to request an application or to introduce myself to the manager, I had to put on a mask. I had to smile and gush and inevitably kiss someone's back side. My heart would scream, "Don't shut me up!" or "Don't cage me in!" But I would not listen. I would shut her up. And that is quite possibly the most miserable pain to live with. So, when this well-meaning friend says, "So, what do you want to do?" She is not being cliche or blase about your situation. She is trying to tell you to follow the real you, your heart, the thing that makes you tick, the thing that makes you feel fully alive! And, as we spoke of last week, I also believe that you can find God's will by doing so. He won't let you down. He has called you to do something great and he will not let it go to waste. Keep writing, Jess!

Anonymous said...

You remind me exactly of Josephine March from Little Women. It's not about fame and fortune. For you it's about being an influence sometimes, but mostly just an urge to share with others what's in your head. I know exactly how that feels. I wish I was good at expressing myself through pen. James has been urging me weekly to start writing. I'm so much better at speaking, though.

You see, I put him to sleep with little stories I come up with on the spot. (He works nights and sometimes it's hard for him to fall asleep right away.) He says I'm really good at it. But I never remember what they are a few days later and I never have the time to sit down right away and start writing what I've just told him. Ugh!

Actually, come to think of it. I'm kind of like the princess who told stories to the king to keep him distracted. The one who told the story about Alibaba and the 40 thieves. That one.

Anyway, I guess I'll have to start obeying my husband and write these stories down. Maybe they'll be a children's nursery story book someday. Who knows?

I miss you.
-Cynthia Gebert

J. M. Richards said...

Thanks for your comments, girls!

Sara, I appreciate you understanding just what I mean, and that you don't think I'm overreacting when I talk about this kind of thing. It's so nice to know someone "gets me." And I appreciate the encouragement!

Cynthia: Should I start calling you Shahrazad? :) (I knew the girl's name, but I needed help with the spelling. Would you believe I had two books within reach that had it??)
I think it's great that you're making up stories for your hubby! I used to do that when I was younger, just make them up on the spot, but I don't so much anymore. You know what I would do sometimes--I'd record them as I talked. I wrote a story for a friend that way.
If you ever get some written down, I'd love to read them! :)

Anonymous said...

Jess:
Well, there not that great, according to me. They always have to have our dog, Stinky, as one of the characters. This is at James' request. :)

"Well, Master your in luck 'cause up your sleeves you have a brand of magic that never fails." (Disney's Aladdin)