“I’m a writer,” I say proudly, adding on the descriptor of fiction, entertainment, or food and drink depending on the company. “But I don’t support myself or anything.”
Ah, there it is. My caveat. Why am I compelled to add it in? Something within me thinks it’s important for people to know, although it isn’t. It’s none of their business how much money I make in my career, but somehow, after six years at this gig, I still view my financial contributions to the household as an essential part of my identity. Other bread-eaters I know have had to deal with judgments as to how they spend their days from other people, and I wouldn’t hesitate to rise to their defense, raise my voice and yell, “How dare you try to devalue this person’s work?!” whether that work be a career, raising children, keeping up a household, or a combination of all of the above. Yet I do it to myself all the time.
I’m ridiculous. You’d think I’d know better by now. Way back when I left my last day job to pursue fiction writing fulltime, I wrote a post on how I was struggling with financial dependency—nay, not just being financially dependent on someone else, but choosing it. That was before I could call myself a professional writer or a published author. I now have a nice long list of accomplishments, and I know I spend the same amount of time on my career as most people do in their workplaces. But my primary emotional battle remains the same: accepting, again and again, that my self-worth does not need to be connected to my financial contribution. You’d think I’d have an easier time with that seeing as our income has risen every year since. But I still get hung up on it.
I’m proud, you see. Proud that I put myself through college. Proud that I could fully support myself until the age of 29. Taking pride in my financial acumen, in the independence that it provided, was a key aspect of my identity until I took that jump into writing fulltime. It provided me with validation that I now have to find elsewhere. And inevitably, that elsewhere starts as a side writing project that eventually overpowers my passion project—writing fiction—because fiction brings in nominal income even when I do sell a story or get royalties. So I devalue it and slowly but surely reprioritize the projects that bring in significant funds. My first few years, that was copy editing dissertations and manuscripts until I realized I was no longer working on my fiction. In the last two years, that’s been writing for an entertainment website until I had the wake-up call that maybe, maybe, the reason I couldn’t get the motivation to work on my second novel was because of the 5K of polished words I’d churned out on articles over 2 days.
How do I realize I’ve done it again? A growing sense of dissatisfaction with my work develops, and I eventually have that aha! moment of realizing it’s because I’m not engaging my creative side. Which isn’t to say nonfiction isn’t creative, of course, but it doesn’t feed my soul in the same way. After I make that realization? The downward spiral commences: I must convince myself, yet again, that it’s okay if I don’t contribute funds to our income, and that I, Becca Gomez Farrell, somehow deserve this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams when so many other people can’t. What right do I have to live this privileged life? And yes, I mean “privileged” with all its social justice connotations. Why is it okay for me to take advantage of this opportunity; what did I do to deserve it other than picking a great husband? It feels selfish of me to even consider spending my days spinning yarns in light of what other people face.