What are you willing to sacrifice?

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Photo Credit: Flickr user CelestineChua

As a newly-minted 30-year-old, I spend a good portion of my time grappling with impossible questions: what am I doing with my life? What should I do with my life? Should I have a family? Should I be doing more for my career? Should I fake my death to get out of paying my student loans? (Kidding… sort of.)

One issue I’ve been working through lately is the pursuit of my writing: On the one hand, I am pulled to be a successful writer who makes money with my words. On the other hand, I’m not sure if I’m willing to do all that being a successful, paid writer entails.

This dichotomy is illustrated perfectly in this brilliant article by Mark Manson, “The most important question of your life.” Manson (I think rightfully) claims that asking ourselves what we theoretically want in life isn’t as important as asking ourselves what dreams we’re willing to sacrifice for:

“Because if you want the benefits of something in life, you have to also want the costs. If you want the beach body, you have to want the sweat, the soreness, the early mornings, and the hunger pangs. If you want the yacht, you have to also want the late nights, the risky business moves, and the possibility of pissing off a person or ten thousand. 

If you find yourself wanting something month after month, year after year, yet nothing happens and you never come any closer to it, then maybe what you actually want is a fantasy, an idealization, an image and a false promise. Maybe what you want isn’t what you want, you just enjoy wanting. Maybe you don’t actually want it at all.”

Manson’s words are so spot on it hurts. I love writing, and I think I’ve always imagined myself as a writer. Writing is one of the only clear goals I have ever had in my rather directionless life. Yet, when it comes to the sacrifice — the long hours spent keeping up on Twitter, posting to Facebook, reading and commenting on other blogs to build WordPress relationships, promoting myself across social media, pitching myself out to media outlets, writing every single day, never being able to unplug — it all feels like too much.

It’s no longer enough to hole yourself up in a beach cottage somewhere, write the next great American novel, and ship it off to publishers. These days, to be a successful writer, it feels like you have to have absurdly high follower counts, a “strong social media presence,” the body measurements of an E! host, professional photography skills, an intermediate understanding of HTML, and oh yeah — you have to be “on” at all times.

It seems endless and it all totally overwhelms me. I’m going to keep it real here: by the time I’ve spilled my heart onto the page and pressed publish, I’m kind of exhausted. I’ve barely got the energy to halfheartedly post my article to social media, much less follow up on comments, cross-post, or even submit my essays to media outlets who have outright asked to publish my work.

The truth is, if I don’t bother to sacrifice myself at the alter of social media and shameless plugging, someone else will. Let’s face it, thousands will. There are millions of wannabe writers out there, many of whom are willing to do what I am not. I could have all the talent in the world, but without the hard work, I am a waste.

I love to write. I love to blog. I long for more. But at what cost? The idea of being chained to social media day in and day out fills me with dread. I do not like the thought of giving up the balance in my life and tirelessly throwing myself into the dream.

Perhaps I really am just in love with a powerful illusion; a vision of me sitting in that little cottage composing my life’s work. It’s a beautiful chimera, that’s for sure.

But maybe there is more inside me. Maybe that little voice that says what I’m doing now isn’t enough is pushing me out of my comfort zone for a reason. Maybe, after nearly three years of deep, all-encompassing grief over my mother’s death, I am coming back to life, and ready to try again.

In 2015, I promised to publish more. I did that. I posted essays rather consistently, built a moderate following, got syndicated by Thought Catalog, and overcame my incessant and damaging need to be liked. 2016 could very well be the year I go further, and really sacrifice for my art.

I think I’m ready to throw myself in.

What are you willing to sacrifice to accomplish what you want in life?

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15 thoughts on “What are you willing to sacrifice?

  1. I love it when you run across those, “I didn’t know I needed to read this until I read it” blog posts.

    And yours is exactly that for me. My plans in 2016 include being a better writer – on my blogs (because I’m insane and have two now) and on this crazy novel I’ve had stuck in my head for years and have only written down in bits and pieces.

    So what am I willing to sacrifice? I suppose it’s a lot of the “fun” stuff I used to do. These days, it’s saying yes to last minute plans and letting others disrupt my schedule. I need to stop that in 2016, stick to my writing plans and, y’know, actually sit down and WRITE.

    Thank you for giving me just the kick I needed on my first “real” day of 2016, Chelsea. ❤

    Miranda

    • I’m SO glad you related to my post, and that it got to you right when you needed it. The last minute “fun” stuff truly is a goal-killer. I’m definitely reeling in my plan-making for 2016, and not allowing myself to go overboard to the point of burnout. It’s hard, because I love friendship! But I also have goals and need to prioritize them, or yet another year will go by without accomplishing them.

      I wish you the best on your new endeavors. For the record, I absolutely love your blog The Good Groupie (I just fixed the obvious oversight of not being an email subscriber). I can’t wait to see what you do in 2016 and beyond! 🙂

  2. If I may offer the opposite of your situation. I always wanted to be a ‘writer’, not a famous writer but just a writer and if I can pay my bills with writing, that’s the icing on the cake. However, in my twenties when I had plenty of time to spare I didn’t do much with this desire or ambition. I didn’t take writing classes to hone my skills, I didn’t start a blog and I never made any real attempts at my ambition and desire to write. I wrote when I could but they were for my own eyes only and were quite horrible. Now I am in my mid thirties, married with two small children. I am now pursuing writing, started a WordPress Blog and put myself on my own deadline of writing something everyday and at least try to publish every two to three days, even if it’s awful and no one reads it. It’s for my own accountability that I pursued my dream and ambition, whether what comes of it at the end, is beside the point. Most ‘writers’ are failures in the monetary sense but it doesn’t make their work less valuable to those that read and cherished it. Finding the time to quietly (the key word here) think about what I want to write about and then writing it is a chore in and of itself. Little kids don’t care what you need to do and they always seem to find the worst time to want to need something from you – like when you are in mid-thought of something that just might be awesome or mid-sentence of something that could be coherent. I often find myself frustrated at them and sometimes I show it. I feel terrible but I deal with it and maybe, just maybe, they will one day learn when mommy is typing on the computer, don’t ask her for that second glass of milk which they won’t finish anyway. The silver lining is my process of writing, because of lack of quiet time, has become focused and when I sit down to write, it’s usually a productive session. Pursuing an art, whether it be writing, painting, sculpting, as one’s profession is a selfish one, because it requires a lot of quiet time all to yourself, to think, to create and meditate on how you present your art. Especially as a woman and a mother, where we are expected to be plugged into our families, taking a few hours each day to purse our art and nurture our soul sometimes feels like we are neglecting our families (even if my kids are in the next room with their father and are fine). So my VERY real fantasy of going to a seaside cottage somewhere just to write is never going to happen until my children are adults. Of all of the problems that plagued our greatest writers, Hemingway, Faulkner, Burroughs, Tennessee Williams – worrying about the mundane minutiae of life was never one of them or that thing called ‘child care’ where women spend thousands of unpaid hours doing, will never register on their radar of things they need to do. Because they were men, and white men, they had the privilege and luxury of being complete selfish bastards and assholes in the name of pursuing their art. We women, regardless if married with children or not, do not have this luxury because society expects more from us.

    • First off, I just want to say THANK YOU for the thoughtful, articulate, and most of all important comment. Not to tell you what to write or anything, but this sounds like a great essay for you to publish.

      It’s so true that the expectations for mothers and fathers are different. And it’s much more difficult for a woman to set aside that time for herself and say, “I’m writing! Nobody disturb me!” We have been so conditioned to sacrifice ourselves to the alter of our children — me time, or even self-care, can seem like the most selfish thing we can do. I already experience this to some degree, and I don’t even have children. I can’t imagine how strong the pull must be when you do. The loss of “self” (i.e. time to devote myself to creative projects, time for self-care like exercise, journaling, etc.) is one of the reasons I am afraid of having children. Have you seen that meme where there’s a list of questions for mom, “where’s my backpack? Can I have chocolate?!” etc. etc. etc. And then the list of questions for dad is simply, “WHERE’S MOM?!” LOL I’m sure you experience this all the time.

      I think writing just to write, for myself, was my original goal. And then I did that. I mean, I still (and will always) struggle with writing for myself vs. writing for an audience, of course. But the idea of making money with writing is one that developed only recently. I used to swear that I didn’t care if I ever made any money or it turned into anything. I was happy just to put my work out there, even if it impacted no one, or just a few people. But lately, ugh, I’ve been feeling the pull to do more. I have always been a rather ambitious person. But my ambitions rarely match up with what I’m willing to sacrifice. I think that right now, for the first time in forever, I’m feeling ready to sacrifice (especially since I am in the VERY cushy position of having flexible work and no children to support). We’ll see how it goes. Maybe I’ll come running back to casual blogging.

      Here’s hoping you’ll get lots of quiet time to write in 2016! I’m looking forward to seeing your work. 🙂

      • Thank you so much, and as I was typing this comment, a full length essay popped into my head LOL 🙂
        And for the “where’s mom?” thing – oh my gosh, it’s all day long everyday and dad does say, ‘ask mom’. Where’s my shoes? and it’s right under my daughter’s bed. Where’s my car toy? I don’t know, scattered on the floor somewhere. And yes, we are conditioned by society, by other men and women alike to sacrifice at the altar of our children, anything less we are told we don’t deserve them and should have never had them to begin with. Other women without children sacrifice for their families, it’s never the bachelor uncle who cares for grandma and grandpa, it’s always the spinster aunt, because you know, obviously she’s got nothing going for her, otherwise she wouldn’t be a spinster.
        If I wanted to do all the things related to my ‘self-care’ and they include writing, reading uninterrupted, my yoga, leisurely walks, I’d have no time for anyone or anything else. But I do have little kids and they need me very much and I need them just as much, but in different ways. They also inspire my writing and mostly they want me to be a better version of myself. Especially for my daughter, I don’t want her to see her mother sacrificing everything for her family and did nothing for herself and she’ll go and repeat that. It’s what my mother wanted for me, but because she’s not that great in articulating her feelings, it came out as “don’t get married and don’t have kids” LOL – but she adores my kids too.
        Thank you for reading my work and following. It means a lot.

  3. I’ve seen people with “WRITER” bumper-stickers. They probably have 1,500 followers on WordPress, 1,000 on Twitter (IDk how many is a lot for Titwitter?), essays published over here and even an Instagram account.
    But with the time they spend Social Media’ing and fancying themselves a “WRITER”, they probably can’t weave a story for shit, use far too many adverbs, and don’t actually understand how use action to show instead of having the narrator tell.
    Social Media? Hogwash!!
    Blogs are fun in the spare time because what writer doesn’t enjoy the narcissism of countless others following your words?
    But giving a crap about blogs and facebook posts and twitter – ever – is like to trying to sell a million records by focusing on the album cover. Who gives an honest shit? Just play great music, man.

    • Ha, I love your outlook. I feel exactly the same way, which is why I’ve been so hesitant to jump in with the social media-ing! But there IS the fact that social media is a great way to reach your target audience. You can be the best band in the world, but if you don’t hustle to book shows and reach out to potential fans, you’ll never move past the garage. Sigh. Maybe the garage really IS the dream, and those of us trying to make money are suckers. 🙂

  4. Sometimes all it takes is a realization of our struggles to be able to overcome them!! Love your writing, can’t wait to read more! Good luck in 2016!

  5. Ah yes, the time consuming work of social media. Work which is never done as far too quickly posts, comments, and insights are buried only to be stumbled upon occasionally. Hours spent going over every detail for each blog post, blog comment, and tweet typed only to be frustrated with yourself for having typed “the” twice in a row. Oh the frustration!!!

    The fear of putting your work out there as people will get a far better glimpse of you than they ever would by talking with you in person. Even as the mouse hovers over the button to submit you begin telling yourself you really should not publish, then, with a sudden surge of confidence you push the button. Was that the right choice? You can only hope that it was.

    Yes, writing is a lot of work. It is true one must wear many hats and learn many new skills to have even the slightest hope that what is written will be read. All the time, effort, research and swallowing of fear (and thus pride) put into your writing is worth it all when you realize even just one person appreciated, was helped or encouraged, and even was caused to laugh at that which you wrote.

      • While I am slowly swallowing my fears by putting my thoughts and writings out for the world to see I am finding that everyone experiences fear – some more than others. Those who are successful are the ones who do not let their fears stop them. In regards to my writting I have decided to fight my fears with each push of the “post” button…which is revealing to me that everyone fears that moment at some point. I have decided that 2016 is the year I will fight against my fears. I am pretty sure exciting experiences will come as a result.

  6. Pingback: What are you willing to sacrifice? | crosstoc

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