Waiting vs. doing

I’d just say to aspiring journalists or writers—who I meet a lot of—do it now. Don’t wait for permission to make something that’s interesting or amusing to you. Just do it now. Don’t wait. Find a story idea, start making it, give yourself a deadline, show it to people who’ll give you notes to make it better. Don’t wait till you’re older, or in some better job than you have now. Don’t wait for anything. Don’t wait till some magical story idea drops into your lap. That’s not where ideas come from. Go looking for an idea and it’ll show up. Begin now. Be a fucking soldier about it and be tough.

— Ira Glass, LifeHacker Interview

I’ve had some really interesting conversations with friends this past week (I say “conversations” like I contributed much to the discussion; mostly I am observing and recording mental notes for later elucidation at the time) about the freelancing life and its differences from traditional career paths.

The unanimous conclusion? Obviously, it’s a risk. Sometimes the risk pays off; sometimes it doesn’t. The outcome is determined by some controllable factors. In publishing, you put out feelers for industry names, but it seems rare that they’ll reach out to you unless you have connections. And to get connections, you have to do busy work.

As a talented artist friend pointed out, sustaining a modern career in the arts requires having other irons in the fire. We’re expected to network, to produce content on a regular basis, and do other projects on the side in our spare time.

But that’s only if we make it a priority. In the early stages of my manuscript, I could have too easily scrapped it and given up. I could have been a waitress instead. I could have said “not now” or “not yet” as time frittered away or ran out.

Active writers take initiative for the work and have to be clairvoyant, because the return for it, while not yet actualized, must be tangible to us. Because art is subjective, an unfinished piece has little value to others, but we have to have conviction that it does have value. It’s belief in an idea or the spark of an idea. We are the investors of our own destinies. Kind of a frightening thought.

So we learn to be fearless. We do not sit and watch and wait for the spark to become a fire. We see a world of open flames and we run through them, and let them catch us and consume us whole.