This is a guest post by award-winning author Lenore Skomal,
Probably the worst advice I ever got from my father—may he rest in peace and not come back to haunt me—was, “You need to have a backup plan.” Of course, this was in response to my desire to go to a great liberal arts college to major in writing. I have wanted to be a writer since third grade. I bleed ink if you cut me. But once the dye was set from his advice, it took over three decades to bleach it out.
Looking back, I realize that this was coming from a man who bought his first camera at 14, spent hordes of money on his ‘hobby,’ shot millions of photos in his lifetime, and never made one thin dime selling or competing. He died not actualizing his lifelong dream of being a professional photographer. And that is sad to me.
Why? Precisely because he had a backup plan. And once he started taking on responsibilities, a family, bills, my mother, the backup plan became a survival plan. I couldn’t have asked for a better father because he showed me the most valuable lesson by living it. I love my dad, but I don’t want to end my life living with the regrets of an artist unfulfilled.
- Backup plans don’t work because they are a misnomer. Anyone who has been encouraged to have one of these or has been the victim to this kind of thinking knows full well they are euphemisms for your real plan. Backup plans, simply put, become your career, and if you’re not careful, your life.
- Backup plans feed on negativity. From the get-go, they come from a place of failure. Backup plans assume, like prenuptials, that the marriage isn’t going to work. (Not that I’m against prenuptials.) But inherent in the plan’s very existence in your life is the unspoken belief that you will fail. So you better have something else in the wings.
- Backup plans take precious time and resources away from what should be your real plan. Putting together a back up plan means dividing your attention, and as a creative, that means parceling out energy that could and should be going to your art. (The biggest complaint of part-time writers is having enough time to write.)
- Backup plans lie to you. Like mistresses who lead you astray in your marriage, a backup plan will tell you you’re doing the right thing, that this is what you really want, that writing is just a whim and she’s the real deal. Wrong. Backup plans seduce and then drop you like a sack of dirt when you’re too old to realize you’ve wasted all of your time on the wrong woman.
I can hear all the objections already. Why? Because I wrote them all, kept them stuffed in my pocket and palmed them with great relish over the years. Every time some one would say to me, “Why aren’t you writing novels?” there they were at the ready to toss at them
All the while, they knew, just like I did, that I was ultimately lying to myself. Excuses are like that, you know. Everyone sees right through them. The hours spent talking myself out of following my passion could have been so much better put to use by writing.
I guess it all comes down to how badly someone wants her dream. It’s common for people to come up to me when they find out I am a writer and they say, “Boy, I’ve always wanted to write.” I used to empathize, when I was immersed in my backup plan. Now I say, “Then why don’t you?”
About Lenore Skomal
Lenore Skomal wants you to eat her books. She wants you to chew them in your teeth, savor them on your tongue, breathe them in, and feel her words in your skin. Her passionate desire is to touch your heart, inspire you, and luxuriate in the world of the written word. She finds ecstasy in constructing a perfect sentence and responds willingly to the nagging ache in her heart to create an authentic experience for the reader. Lenore is an award-winning author with the single goal of being heard.
Winner of multiple awards for blogging, literature, biography and humor, Lenore Skomal’s catalogue spans many genres. With 30 years of writing experience, over 17 books published and a daily blog, the consistent themes in her work are the big issues the human experience and adding depth and voice to the intricacies involved in living a multi-dimensional existence. Skomal has won several Society of Professional Journalist Awards, Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference honorable mention for best fiction, Writer’s Digest 73rd Annual Fiction Contest, New York Public Library’s Best Books for Teens 2003, and the Next Generation Indie Book Award for humor. From journalism, to literary fiction, to humor and biography, Skomal’s writing is consistent, if not in genre, then in message.
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