Carrie Ryan came to the library today for an author event. She talked for about forty five minutes then took questions then there was a signing. It was great. She's very funny, and I can see how she'd be a good lawyer. She's very confident and good in front of people, and gave some fantastic answers to people's questions.
One thing she talked about a lot (and it obviously holds great meaning to her) is the idea of figuring out what you want to do and then going after it. Her thing was, "If I ask myself what I want to be and I say 'an author,' then ten years from now I still want to be an author but I ask myself 'What have I done to accomplish that?' I don't want the answer to be 'Nothing.'" This makes a great deal of sense to me. She talked about friends she knows who practice law still who just feel trapped in their own lives. "Why do you still do it?" she asks them. "Well," they say. "I've got to pay off these school debts." And she replies, "Well, I'm paying off my school debts too, but I'm doing it while doing something I love. Wouldn't you rather try for that?"
Of course, she knows she's lucky. Not everybody gets to be successful at what they love. But I really see her point.
My problem is this: I ask myself "What do you want to be?" and do you know my answer? My answer is not "I want to be a writer." It's not "I want to sit in a room at a computer or with a notebook churning out words eight hours a day." My answer is this: I want to be EVERYTHING.
I want to be a pizza delivery guy. I want to be a talk show host. I want to be the daughter of a country knight. I want to be a cursed man stuck in a house between worlds serving penance for eternity. I want to be two orphans who rescue the forest people from an evil queen. I want to be a delusional boy convinced he's a superhero who harasses the neighborhood homeless people thinking he's helping them. I want to be a depressed twentysomething who finds out she can travel outside of time and who reluctantly squares off against a villain who's attempting to manipulate her. I want to be the teenage girl who finds out she's a fairy godmother. I want to be the Spuzzle who can't say spuz. I want to be the adventurer on the quest. I want to be the princess AND the knight AND the dragon. I want to be impossible and I want to be real. I want to be perfect and I want to be broken. I want to be the alien from outerspace and the boy from next door. I want to be EVERYTHING. Anything you can think of and more.
But some of these things require skills I don't have. Others of them require a lifetime of training. Still others happen by pure chance. And of course there are so many of those things that can't happen, that are quite impossible. I can't be the girl who finds out she's really from another world. I can't be the knight on a quest. I mean, I could live my life with a sword in one hand and a pack on my back wandering the world looking for dragons to slay, but I'd be exhausted and hungry and probably institutionalized before very long.
So since I can't be everything, I want to at least pretend. I want to make believe for a living. And since I can't be these characters, at the very least I want to tell their stories.
Carrie also talked about deadlines, and how she set one for herself. She gave herself ten years. "If I haven't gotten a novel published in ten years, then I'll give it up and just do something else with my life." And by giving herself this deadline (and plenty of time to fail), she actually succeeded in reaching her goal in half that time. In fact, this year would likely have been the ten year mark, and she has three books out and is working on another.
This also proves difficult for me, because as the Good Madness project clearly illustrates, I have too many ideas and not enough follow-through. Which do I start with? What do I do first? And what do I do with all those spare ideas buzzing around demanding attention?
I don't know.
In the book she signed for me, she wrote "Find your own path." It's a little cutesy, I think. It's the kind of generic thing she can write in anybody's book because anyone could apply it to their lives. But in this case, I like it. Because that ten year plan, "I want to be a writer" thing was her path. I don't know how long my path will be, and I don't have any sort of plan, but at least now I can tell myself the truth: I don't want to be a writer. I want to be EVERYTHING.