Have you ever wanted something deeply enough to ache, without realizing it? That was my experience with wanting to be an author. It seemed so professional, so impossible, and so far out of my realm that it never occurred to me that it was a possibility. But oh, how I wanted it.
It took a terrible job – the kind where a good day is any that doesn’t see you in tears – and one particular video blog to make me take the leap of faith that would lead me to writing professionally. Well, that and a well-timed play of I’m Yours by Jason Mraz.
If you haven’t heard of the Green brothers, or their vlog on youtube (the vlogbrothers) I highly recommend checking them out. As of recently both brothers are published and bestselling authors and completely relatable human beings. The elder, John Green, is the only person on earth to make me believe that I might be able to write a book. And not just one book, but many.
I’d been watching the vlogbrothers for a long time before the video that changed my life came out. Although they’ve become much more philosophical in recent years, at the beginning I mostly watched them because they were goofy and lovable. John had a cute dog too, which helped.
The fateful video involved the best-selling author explaining the Georgian-Russian war, something that was totally consistent with what I thought an author would do. What did not fit that high-brow mental image however, was the peanut butter he spread over his face during the explanation. Ostensibly this was to keep the video from being boring, but for me it had a much greater effect.
Authors were not only human, but suddenly, they could be weird. I was weird. I was human. It was the first time I ever considered that maybe, just maybe, I could write in the real world and not just in my wildest dreams.
Enter The Business That Shall Not Be Named, or TBTSNBN Industries. TBTSNBN Industries was a manufacturer that sold several million dollars in goods every year. They were also not particularly well managed thanks to some blatant nepotism. While I was there it was unanimous among the staff that there were big problems with the business, and as mentioned it was not unusual for me to come home in tears at least once a week.
Eventually, I caught myself wondering about some pretty grim alternatives to work. This was unusual for me, as I’ve always been a pretty happy-go-lucky person. The first time I thought these thoughts, it hit me like a physical force just how wrong the situation was.
Still, I didn’t leave. I was trapped in a place with (at the time) high unemployment, with little experience and limited connections. At least that’s what it felt like.
One appropriately grey and rainy night, in the depths of anxiety and depression (not the clinical kind) I went for the walk that would be my impetus for change. Soaked to the skin, trudging as only the hopeless can trudge, I wandered aimlessly around the upper-middle class suburb I was living in at the time. And then I’m Yours came on in my headphones.
It’s a difficult song to be sad to. The beat is catchy, the rhythm is upbeat, and the lyrics are both silly and uplifting. It’s not the best song in the world or anything, but it’s what I needed at the time. Something broke inside me on that rainy night. Some deeply held beliefs were pulled out and examined, some false loyalties, and a handful of videos involving peanut butter.
Two hours later I slumped into the 750 square foot basement suite I shared with my partner, exhausted but triumphant. I announced, surprising even myself, that I was quitting my job and taking 5 months to try writing. Happily, I had the savings to keep up my end of the household costs.
It was a scary transition, but one that has made my life better in every way. It took three manuscripts for me to write anything worth reading, but I wouldn’t trade that time for anything. I rejoined the workforce after those five months a stronger person, a better writer, and with more self-love than I would have ever had without the challenge.
I tell this story not because I think it’s particularly interesting, but because it is important to recognize that inspiration isn’t always a lightening strike. Sometimes it’s a handful of small moments, the little ah-ha’s that push us. The comment of a loved one, someone’s face on the street, or a song shuffled into the mix at just the right moment. Let the inspiration come, and you’ll be amazed how far it might take you.
This guest post was written by Zenia Platten, author of Tethered (available for pre-order on Amazon, live June 1, 2019) and The Ghost of Baile Briste (available winter 2019).