38: The pursuit of possibility.

- August 6, 2017 -

I spend a great deal of time immersing myself in the lives and rituals of other writers, though not for the reason that many will often think.

I don’t do this to discover some secret kernel of insight which might make me a better writer. By now, I know that there really is no secret, no five- or ten-step process to landing a book deal or achieving international acclaim.

No, my reason for dedicating so much time to this pursuit — time spent listening to interviews with established authors, for instance, or reading the memoirs and blog posts and personal essays of those doing similar work — has nothing to do with a desire to uncover hidden truths. My reason is based upon something much simpler: I just want to be reminded that it’s possible to do what those writers are doing.

I want to surround myself with tangible, real-world reminders that there are people out there who write for a living, people who have managed to become successful enough at doing so that writing pays their bills and enables them to pursue a life of creativity. I do this to normalize the idea of being a writer, to make it seem as realistic as anything else, to ensure that it doesn’t just feel like a far-off dream existing only in a world of what-ifs.

More than that, though, I do this because I have to.

If I didn’t do this, and if I listened, instead, to the scores of naysayers and statistics telling me what infinitesimal percentage of writers actually ‘make it,’ I know that I wouldn’t be able to keep writing. It would seem too far-fetched, too unrealistic, and, if that was the mindset with which I approached my work, there would be no way for me to rationalize a continued commitment towards a career as a writer.

That’s the thing about having goals: in order to attain them, you have to constantly navigate a delicate balance between what you know you can do — what you know others have already done — and what the world tells you is realistic. I do this by listening to all of those interviews and reading all of those essays, but we all have our own methods of pursuing possibility. And, even from a very young age, we seem to have no trouble doing so.

We’ll cover the walls of our childhood bedrooms with posters of the people we admire, putting a face we can recognize to the murky concept of success. We’ll scribble soul-stirring lyrics or favourite quotes into the margins of notebooks and onto stacks of sticky notes, ensuring that they’re always nearby should our motivation begin to waver. And, most recently, we’ll fill our feeds with artists, CEOs, and celebrities, maintaining an ever-growing roster of idols across every social network to keep us reaching beyond the confines of the everyday.

I just wonder what might happen if we were to become even more committed to these pursuits, more consistent about overlooking that which the world deems realistic and reaching, instead, for that which is possible.


Waving from my desk,
– J


This piece comes from Jana Marie’s newsletter, The Sunday Letters. You can sign up to receive future editions below.