who the heck knows anything, anyway

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Vocation question: how do you know you're doing the right/best thing?

I struggle with the idea of Vocation with some regularity. It's quite possibly the Catholic upbringing--the idea of being Called to Do Something. This isn't a bad idea. It's possibly not the best idea, but it's pretty good.

On bad days, I wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I know I need to be Working on Big Projects with Ambitious Goals, because I am depressed and dissatisfied when I don't. But what is The Right Thing? What am I called to do? I have felt duty-bound to writing since my undergrad years, but since I discovered that making comics is very much a job, too (a discovery I made about four years ago*), I've been torn. I thought that art had to be my hobby, because I couldn't afford art school. Fortunately, I know now that I was wrong in this assumption. But am I meant to make comics more than I am meant to write prose fiction?

When I was in a bad mood last week, I wrote this:

Writing fiction is painful for me. I do it because...well, that's just it: I have no idea why I do it. I'm good at it, but that's not enough. Is this self-doubt caused by laziness? By the fact that I became a writer because everyone told me I would probably end up doing that? Am I even a writer? It's not like I publish a goddamn thing. If "writer" just means "someone who writes," then yes, that's me. I'll probably write forever. I will write even if it's not my job, because that's just what I do, what I've always done. Maybe that's what makes me a writer, who knows. I've never LOVED it, though--rather, I've never felt loved by it. It's a totally unreciprocated relationship.

There's all this mythos around Writing and I call bullshit. It's much more like math or science than people assume. You have an idea. You want to solve the idea. It is difficult. There is rarely glory in it. Why do most people write, anyway? Most writing is bullshit. Most writing is terrible. I can't handle all the fakey-fake nonsense people spout as they are dotingly asked to describe the process and magic that led them to write their mediocre book. "I wrote for ten million hours today, and it just FLOWED through me, and I also write that much EVERY DAY, it's like SO MAGICAL." No.

Sometimes I just want to run into the wall, repeatedly.

And I feel this way regularly. HOWEVER, I've been on [the world's shortest] summer break for abut two weeks, and what have I done during my "time off"? Started two short stories: one prose, and one comic. If I wasn't meant to write, I wouldn't write during my piddly two weeks of vacation (ESPECIALLY since the weather has been AMAZING this week).

So, ok, I feel connected to both drawing and comics. My big existential crisis of last week came from this absurd idea that I had to choose between them. That led to that nice little italic rant above. It turns out, as long as I considered comics to be a "hobby" and not a legitimate pursuit of my occupational life, I was going to be miserable. So I made a decision: I do not have to choose. I can do both. I am doing both. Why abuse yourself in thinking you are called to be one singular thing? That's terrible! And ridiculous! I mean, jeez, if you want to be a Park Ranger and a Poet, who the heck is going to tell you that you can't? If you want to be a Beautician and a Physicist, do it. Why does one part of your identity have to be a "hobby"? Let me tell you: it doesn't. There is no reason you have to tell yourself that, either. These things that you feel a deep, unabashed passion for? They are not equivalent to casual stamp collecting. Everyone is different, of course, but the big change for me came when I allowed myself to say: I do both. I am a writer and a comics artist.

I may not be as good at the latter, yet, but 24 is hardly too old to get going, and I improve at both every damn day.

*I've loved comics for a very long time, but assumed it just wasn't something I could do. Not that I was incapable--I drew a lot of comics in high school--but no one ever told me that could be a job. High schools really need to learn that there are more careers than Lawyer, Teacher, Doctor, Business Person. Everyone in my high school knew I loved to draw and to write, but not a dang person suggested I could do both of these things at once.