I bit the bullet, folks. I'm back in school.
I'm still slinging espresso for the morning crowd at my local corporate java joint, but in the afternoons, I'm balancing my time between writing, narration, and 9-12 course hours worth of classes. If that sounds like a lot, it is. Don't worry, though, I'm now at nearly 120k for the rough draft of SONG OF THE HERETIC, which isn't anywhere near as close to being done as I had hoped for that sort of word count, but I'm hoping to finish by the end of the year.
"But, Lauren! What are you studying?"
Oh, fine, I'll tell you. (These conversations with myself make me feel so important).
I'm going into a field called Echocardiography, which is at its most basic, ultrasound for the heart. It's an interesting field and there are jobs in it everywhere around the US. Half the people I know have had echocardiographs done. In that line of work, never want for a job.
The coursework itself starts this coming fall, but I have a few prerequisites to fulfill, since the course requires a Bachelors degree. While I have the former, my English/Classics double major didn't require me to take college algebra, conceptual physics, or A&P, so I will be taking those in the spring.
If you had told me in undergrad that I would be taking A&P, Math, and a Physics course with a lab all in the same semester, I probably would have lit myself on fire. Strangely enough, I feel pretty good about it--mostly because the physics classes are conceptual. What changed?
I realized that, if I'm going to support myself while writing, I need a career.
I quit my job last year so I could get my head on straight, and I'm glad to report that my Jedi Training has been going well. (For those not keeping up, "Jedi Training" is code for my battle with anxiety, depression, and panic attacks.) In fact, it's been going well enough that I feel open to a lot of things I've not felt open to for a long time. I'm going out. I'm writing consistently. I'm dating again. I'm gearing up to build a lightsaber...
No, I am actually going to build a lightsaber. (Who else saw the trailer for Episode VII? DAT X-WING SCENE.)
I feel at peace with myself enough to admit I need a career to support my writing, not just a part-time barista gig or a soul-sucking phone center job. I need something I can do for the rest of my life that affords me the lifestyle and experiences I want in life, but that leaves me the time and energy for writing and a life beyond.
Wookie balls, that was hard to admit. It took my parents voicing their worry that I won't be able to support myself when they're gone for me to really step back and think about a career in addition to writing or narration.
The biggest road block was my own belief that I wasn't good at anything else.
I can't say how long I've felt this way, but it's so deeply internalized that I had trouble figuring it out. Once I did, it sort of pissed me off. I was putting up roadblocks for myself because past experience had me believing I couldn't apply myself consistently enough to do well in math or science. But all that was before my Jedi Training. All that was before I even really learned to apply myself to writing, and you know what?
Writing taught me discipline that I have been able to apply in other areas of my life.
But in chair; hands on keys; words on page. It's the mantra of writers. It means you have to do the work if you want to be good. After realizing that talent and youth alone wouldn't get me published, I spent years learning craft. I'm still learning craft. I don't think I'll ever stop learning it. That was my weakness in writing, and did I put up a roadblock because past experience told me my books were too long and my pacing was problematic? Hell no! I applied butt to chair and brain to book. I studied.
And so it has proved this past semester with Medical Terminology and Psychology. I'm doing very well in both, and I'm actually looking at the upcoming classes as a challenge rather than something to fear. I'm not going to let my own past experiences hold me back.
Besides, I'm visualizing all the awesome things I can do with an actual grown-up salary.
Like visit Prague or Scotland or Greece. Like rent a Winnebago with Abbie and spend a month traveling around the US, writing, eating, and podcasting. We could call it Tales from the Winnebago. I could afford to get my kitty all his shots. I wouldn't have to worry about whether I could afford to go to conventions.
But I don't plan on working 9-5.
That's never been me. I don't think it will ever be me. Some hospitals will actually me longer shifts on fewer days--10 hours 4 days a week. That's a whole extra day of writing per week. Which means I can guiltlessly take one of those days off to relax, which is something I don't really do at the moment.
Life's not scary anymore. The fact that I have a goal, a concrete job ahead of me, has given me the sort of peace of mind I never really expected to have. Knowing I will have the safety of a career to keep me afloat has taken the pressure off me to make money from writing. At least, for the moment.