Day 12 – (re)defining myself

Posted on October 29, 2009

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First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.
Epictetus

The effort to define or re-define oneself can be difficult.  There is a lot of ego tied up with an established identity, a lot of capital, and I fear “throwing away” what I’ve spent so much time building.  My careers as lawyer and banker brought financial security to my family, will I lose it all and plunge us into destitution by changing?   I’ve had some success as a lawyer and banker, these roles form a large part of my identity.  Would I destroy my sense of self by  changing?  Will I be a peon (again)?  How will I (and my ego) handle a new vocation and starting over on the learning curve?  I wonder if many people who are established in careers they dislike hesitate to pursue their passions because of the costs (real and perceived) of switching?

Aside from the psychic costs of switching, there are more technical challenges.  If I’ve decided that I want to be a . . . trapeze artist/lion tamer/clown, how do I make the change?

I can’t begin to tackle all the technical aspects of career switching, there are certainly a million and one (or more) resources to address each career.  But here’s what I think about how to get in the mindset of a new vocation.  This part might be easy.  And once you’ve got the mindset, you can start brainstorming ways to make it happen.

1.  First, following Epictetus’s advice, say what you would be: I am a writer!!! (make sure to use plenty of exclamation marks! perhaps even ALLCAPS if you’re feeling particularly frisky)
2.  Second, figure out, either by research (if you must) or imagination (for a quick hit) what YOUR people DO or HAVE : near as I can imagine, writers:

  • WRITE!  every day!
  • Have fabulous pens and notebooks (fun!)
  • Observe the world and its people (note to self: spend more time at quirky bars)
  • Learn (take classes, remain open, attend conferences, etc.)
  • Experiment (cross genres, vary styles, etc.)
  • Fail – many times (and succeed – when it counts)
  • Have a workman like attitude towards their output, rather than a “diva” attitude
  • Support other writers and artists – by buying, endorsing, witnessing, advocating
  • Enter NaNoWriMo (a little self-serving I know)

3.  Third, consider what environment do YOUR people seek or work in?  for me:

  • safe, “hidey-hole” for writing
  • a place with ample supplies of high quality chocolate (hey, this is my dreamline)

4.  Fourth, define who are YOUR people’s people or posse? Who do they hang with?  for me:

  • other writers
  • other artists/creatives
  • target audience

Once you’ve defined the things YOUR people do or have, where they do these things and with whom they do them, pick the one most meaningful thing on your list – and just do it.  Perhaps, buying some tiny little thing that represents your people (say, for any fellow wannabe writers, fabulous fountain pen or wonderful heavy card stock for writing personal notes.  or perhaps an old french beret) will be enough to get you in the mindset.  If it feels right, tackle another item on your list.  Keep going.  See how it feels.  Ask yourself – is this who I am?   What does your heart say?

Even if you’re doing this after work, after reading bedtime stories for your kids, before tumbling into bed, exhausted, take 5 minutes to write your own lists and highlight the items that appeal most to you.  Do one!  Have fun.  Que sera sera!

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NaNoWriMo status: Getting nervous (not sure why, perhaps just the idea), 3 days to start! I think I’m going to do a spooky story for kids 9-12 years. Anyone remember enjoying ghost stories at that age? Any particularly good memories? Would love to hear your opinions about whether that genre “works” for that age group.

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