Friday, June 4, 2010
Own Your Ambition
The world makes way for those who know where they are going.
I tend to assume that other people are fundamentally like me.
Sometimes this is good: after all, just because someone is 20 years older (or younger) than me, or votes differently than me, or comes from the other side of the planet, or has a completely different job or educational history, etc... doesn't mean that we can't care about many of the same things or have similar underlying hopes and dreams.
On the other hand, sometimes people are not like me at all. Often I'm just fascinated. Really? You believe [completely different set of values and/or life philosophies]? How is that possible? Weird. Okay. But periodically I find myself totally blindsided. This recently happened to me in the area of AMBITION.
So as not to point fingers at people who are actually in my social circle, I'm going to use Jacob Appel as my example here. You may have heard about Jacob by reading one of his more-than-one-hundred short stories that have been published in the most prestigious literary markets around the world. You may have read his communications with Literary Rejections On Display, which included his estimation that he has received eleven thousand rejection letters on the way to getting those publications. He's also a bioethicist as well as an author. He has a B.A., two M.A.s and an M.Phil., an M.D., an M.F.A., and a J.D. And he's 37. Born not-quite 10 months before me, in fact. Oh, and he's a licensed sight-seeing guide for NYC.
And I thought taking the NY and MA bar exams at the same time was hard.
I mean seriously, who has that kind of time? More importantly, who has that kind of drive? Let's face it, I like sitting on my butt some nights instead of mailing out 11,000 copies of various short stories to various markets (not to mention the time it took to write those stories). Relatedly, I never wanted to be a partner at a law firm, and I didn't want to be in film badly enough to be willing to waitress (or do whatever other odd job was available to me) between acting gigs. I am just not that ambitious.
I used to feel bad about this. But I've decided to own my ambitions. I have them, to be sure. But we don't all need to want everything, all the time. For myself, I want to write well and do good work, then check out and be with my family.
This is also why I went back to work part-time after having my daughter. I wanted to spend part of the day using my education and writing skills and socializing with adults, then spend part of the day as Mom. Some parents want more time at home, others want less. Some writers want to give up everything for art, some don't. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of those choices; these are our own personal ambitions, and may we all be granted what we seek.
Have you "owned" your ambitions? Are you comfortable where you are? Are you trying to be BETTER than you are now? Or are you still trying to figure out what you want?
What kind of writer do you want to be?