It is nearly a year now since Cambridge (well, in three months) said they didn’t want me, and during that time I’ve felt a bit deflated and rudderless. I’ve taken a week or two to really sit down and think things through. Something this blog has noticed. I fire off a post now and then, and then go back to thinking.
The leisurely pace I’m enjoying at the new school allowed me to do that, and there weren’t any exams to sit for, and no marriage to prepare. I have dithered for long enough. What I want is to become a writer, and that hasn’t changed. What changed was my access to the means of my ends, the degree.
Instead of going to Cambridge, where I would only have to go for four years, I can now look forward to either getting a Master’s or a Ph. D. My education is likely to take between two and four years longer than planned. I’m laughing, but my plan was to become a teacher so that I could support my writing.
The degree was always something I would take to get a job so that I could afford to waste my life hunched over a keyboard. That hasn’t changed, and it never did change. Writing is what defines me, still. And that is what I must do. That is what I must focus on. My plan, or ambition, hasn’t changed at all – just the path to fulfilling it.
The big worry is, of course, that I’m not good enough to become a professional writer. The worry is that I’m fooling myself. The worry is that even if I am good enough, it won’t be enough. Writing for a living is incredibly hard, and looks to be harder when books are turned through the wringer like music was by Napster and The Pirate Bay.
If what you assign value to is the container, and the price of duplicating the container, then the data in the container becomes worthless. And if it becomes worthless, then the chance to make a living just becomes much, much harder.
Writers will have to earn a wage doing other things than writing. Hawk books out of car trunks, or stand in a booth at a book show. The time spent writing will be minimized, and the time spent marketing will be maximized. If you don’t produce, you don’t have anything to sell. And maybe to produce, you must invest a lot of time that you don’t have.
I have a fairly clear, unromantic view of my chances. They are slim. Most likely I will never make a living writing. The analysis I made when I pestered my parents to be allowed to come here to England still stands thus. I must gain this degree to have a chance at a job that will allow me to write.
So, despite my rejection from Cambridge, nothing has actually changed. Maybe it’s a sign of my nature that it took me almost a year to get around to realising that. I feel pretty daft, but I also feel pretty relaxed and resolved now. This is my path; this is my road ahead. To the writer I will be one day, published or not.
If I haven’t told you before, I love Mark. I have never loved a human being as I love that man. He is amazingly patient with me, as I work through my hick-ups and foibles, and my inclinations to brood about things like this.
He is impossible, stubborn, and intransigent in some ways, and unfathomably charitable and generous and empathetic in other ways. He married me, and it feels like he did me the highest honour. I love that man. I could die for that man. I would too, if I had to.
For the past week he’s given me space to work things out, and has encouraged me, or offered advice like “maybe you have school fatigue. You should take a gap year”. But I don’t have school fatigue. I’m enjoying school. I feel stimulated by it, because the subjects are interesting.
Literature history is a dry thing with old tomes and dust gathered in ancient libraries, but it is fairly small and not the cut-throat world of literary criticism. There is a future there of reading the old books of long dead people, hidden away in the small rooms of academia. Yeah, it could give me what I want; the wage, modest as it may be, that let me jot down my writings.
Or maybe my magazine project will explode and take on a life on its own – although I really doubt that. Cleverer people than me have tried to solve the riddle of the future of journalism. I am enthusiastic, and dream about big interviews in big papers about the runaway success of the Magazine Project. However, let’s be realistic, and say it most likely will be a learning thing that I do now. That is fine. That is totally cool.
Whatever the future holds, I can’t wait. Bring it. I’m ready. Finally.