If I am so unhappy and underemployed in my current job, then I SHOULD spend every spare moment actively searching for work. Right? But I didn't do it even when happily employed (although sometimes I think that I have never been happily employed--either I liked the work and not the people or liked the people and not the work, and have never until this job liked the money--but that is a topic I've beaten before.)
And I write essays/blog posts. They are so easy for me--they're half written in my head before I even sit down at the keyboard. And sometimes I don't even manage that--once written in my head, the need to write passes.
Perhaps that is the key--I need to write the essays--to get them out of my head, to enjoy the sound of my own voice, to keep my writing skills from rusting away altogether, so that I can do my day job better, and keep my vocabulary sharp. But unfortunately, it's not likely that anyone is going to pay me for my essays. The papers are laying off seasoned essayists and movie and book reviewers are an endangered breed. The editorial or weekly column has been replaced by the blog. Oh, sure there are some who manage to get paid over at Huffington or Salon, but I'm not really in line for those. And some bloggers manage to make money but they write on one topic and I, I am, as always, all over the place. The marketer in me knows that I could market myself better--have better SEO--if I made separate blogs for the different threads, one for book reviews, one for movie reviews and film discussion and one for general rantings like this, but even then there is so much noise on the internet now. Once upon a time it might have been possible to stand out, but now, while there are numerous perfectly terrible writers on the web, there are also many, many very good writers.
But, I don't seem to NEED to write fiction, but I long to. I sometimes need to write poetry, but that is a fool's game even more than writing essays. I am not such an egotist to think that my poetry is so revolutionary that it commands attention and adoration. It is fair to middling. I am not Eliot or Ted Hughes whose talent was so blazing and original that people bowed down to it. And is that even possible now--to stand out from the crowd that much now? And even then I need to write a poem perhaps once every 6 months...hardly enough to call myself a poet.
Perhaps because it seems that all my friends are closet writers, and many are even published, I think that I should. Is it jealousy? Is it another 'should'? A sense that this is what my Amherst English degree was for, since it seems to not be helping me in any other way.
The essays are also easy because they are done--I could edit them, tighten them, would if it mattered at all. But a story--you can work on a story for years before it's done, before it holds together and has a voice and is compelling for anyone but you. I'm all about instant gratification. Even when I manage to walk into my studio I turn to the crafts and sewing first because I can call them done at a certain point. The dress is finished. The necklace done. I am not an artist of paint or materials who will work forever on a sculpture. My pieces need to be practical. A friend suggested that maybe I need to do the crafting in a way that I do not NEED to do the writing. But I think it is mere fear of the time commitment. Not that I enjoy crafting and sewing more than the act of writing, because I don't.
This friend has been religious in the last year in writing the morning 5 pages of brain dump and then the section of a novel. That's what it takes. Everyone says so. At least those who publish consistently, produce consistently. The commitment to treat the writing as a job, not as a flash of lightening. What I should do (again should--I am drowning in shoulds), is to treat the essays as a brain dump, and then turn automatically to the fiction. I certainly waste time--don't clean, don't look for work--in other ways, why not in something more meaningful, more hopeful than the next Hidden Object video game?
I think I am also afraid that I don't have enough ideas for fiction. I only seem to have three stories that I interested in telling. Harlan Ellison and Neil Gaiman talk of having so many "What ifs" in there heads that they can't get them down fast enough. God, grant me that problem. Or would they come if I only opened the tap?