I Quit My Job to Write a Book
The San Diego startup I worked at was founded in a living room while the movie Anchorman was on TV. That’s why the little meeting rooms for one-on-ones and sales calls are named in references to the film. Glass Case of Emotion was booked, as was the Channel 4 Newsroom. The only meeting space available was called Sex Panther. So that’s where I quit my job.
I thanked my bosses for their flexibility and kindness over the past three years. I told them it wasn’t an easy decision but I believed it was the right one. I told them I would stay for another six weeks.
My department head told me she had admired my commitment to creative pursuits and she hoped I was leaving to do something with that.
“I am. I’m going to dive into a…a long fiction proj — Fuck it. I’m gonna try to write a book.”
What Was I Thinking?
I met with my bosses on a Friday and spent most of that weekend squirming with fear. I am a pragmatist, a planner. I never let my phone run out of battery, nor have I ever cracked the screen. I pay bills ahead of time. I leave early when I need to drive somewhere unfamiliar. The most I have ever put on my credit card was a couple hundred dollars that I knew would be reimbursed.
I don’t just look before I leap — I study the gradient of the dropoff, the length of the gap, and check the weather for wind resistance.
On top of this general fear of not having my shit together, I had graduated with a literature degree into the recession, which also claimed my parents’ home. I have pre-existing conditions for which I need care and prescriptions. These were some of the thoughts swirling through my head.
But it still didn’t feel like a mistake. I felt a lot that weekend, but I did not feel regret.
Of Course I’m Scared
This wasn’t a rash decision. I’ve been saving what I could for the past five years, even when that was just a fraction of my tips from waiting tables. I would have a lot more saved, but my desire for a safety net was always in conflict with my desire to be rid of my student loan debt.
My plan is to allow myself two months to write a first draft and then reevaluate and probably look for at least a part-time job. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have a full outline of my story and have scheduled weekly and daily writing goals for myself, but if you’ve spent any length of time writing, you know how longer projects can spiral out of control or become overwhelming.
What I’m most afraid of is that I might give up. That I might get a new job three months from now, abandon my manuscript and think of how much of my savings I blew. I’m afraid that I’ll try and I’ll fail and then I can no longer cling to the hope that “if I had the time or the freedom, I would do it.” I’m afraid I’ll get 40,000 words in and decide I’m not a fiction writer. I’m afraid that I’ll decide my story won’t work or that it’s too uninteresting or that I’m just not a good enough or smart enough writer. I’m afraid I’ll run into an old coworker six months from now and when they ask about that book I left to write, I’ll say, “It just didn’t work out” or “I’ve got most of a draft but there’s still a long way to go” or “yeah, I kind of put that on hold.” I’m afraid I’ll finish the manuscript and be unable to get anyone to read it or sell it or buy it. I’m afraid that I will fail and I am afraid of how much that will crush me.
But I guess I’ve finally reached the point where all those fears are outweighed by my fear of never trying and never knowing. I’m more afraid of regret.
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