Boating Licences and Writing

On writer’s in residence and “real” jobs, not hobbies.


When I got home from having one of my stories critiqued by a writer in residence, I was so excited about how it went that I had to tell the first person I saw all about it. That person was my dad (who I never discuss my writing endeavors with).

I excitedly jabbered at him, quoting things the author had said about my work, and telling him how I was going to fix up the story.

My dad nodded politely as he listened. When there was a break in my babbling, he asked in a level voice, “So what does this woman do?”

I started. Hadn’t he been listening? “She’s a writer,” I said.

“Yes, but what does she do?”

Oh. I understood.

My dad isn’t exactly the most supportive of my writing. Whenever I mention my writing to him he usually quietly nods, ignores me or says nothing. It’s not that he doesn’t appreciate literature. He’s read every night before bed for my whole life. However, when it comes to reading my work, he won’t do it. I’ve been trying to get him to read the edited version of the story the writer in residence helped me with for weeks, but he’s simply won’t. I normally avoid talking to him about anything writing related, but I was just so excited about the writer in residence session that I couldn’t stop myself.

This conversation with him is the first time I’ve seen his attitude extend to a writer other than myself. To him, writing is not a career. It’s a hobby. The fact that someone could live their life doing a hobby isn’t something he understands. I think this is why he’s never been supportive of my writing; he’s afraid that if he appreciates my passion, it’ll push me to try to become a full-time writer and in the process I’ll become a peniless bum.

I think his attitude has rubbed off on me.

I quit my job of five years last week with no other job lined up because of…let’s say it was a disagreement. I gave them three weeks notice (far more than they deserve). By the time those weeks are over, there will only be about two months left of summer. In September, I’d be moving and heading to school. When considering all of this and how hopeless job hunting has been all year, a very small voice in the back of my head whispered, “You shouldn’t even bother looking for another job and use those two months to be a full-time writer.”

What a lovely idea.

I live at home, so I don’t have to pay rent. I’ve paid off my student loans from my first degree, and I don’t owe anything on my credit card, so I wouldn’t have to worry about debt. I have money saved up too, and what I couldn’t cover for school in September, I could get from student loans. I could do it. I could really do it.

But I didn’t.

I found a summer job selling boating licenses.

Obviously, there’s a part of me that has internalized my dad’s view of writing. However, to me it’s not that no one can be a full-time writer; it’s simply that I can’t be a full-time writer–not even for two small financially secure months. I’m not established enough to be considering such things. I’ve only been published twice and paid for my writing once. That’s hardly the beginnings of a career.

I hope that one day in the future I will feel worthy enough to give myself time like that to write, perhaps when I’ve published another story, or gotten my manuscript back from the professor who’s editing it for me.

Until that day, does anybody need a boating license?

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