Marsha Sinetar, author of Do What You Love, The Money Will Follow made the iconic statement “…if you do work that you love, and work that fulfills you, the rest will come.”
These are words that really resonate with me, and throughout my life I’ve tried living by them. And for me, the “work” that I love is writing.
My sister Cheryl was developmentally disabled, and my parents were unable to handle her. While Cheryl was basically able to clean, clothe, walk, talk and feed herself, she had the mind and demeanor of a five-year old–a very angry, very demanding, extremely strong five-year old who made my life a living hell (especially since we shared a bedroom together).
I, however, was the “normal one,” the glue that kept the family together. Yet when it came to having my needs met, to feel loved and safe, my parents had nothing left to give. My father even went so far as to tell me when I was 12 that I had to understand they had to give all their attention to Cheryl. Not easy words to hear for a 12-year-old girl going through puberty and who felt like an outcast among her peers because of her family situation. When I begged them to put Cheryl in a group home so that we could all have some semblance of “normalcy,” they refused to listen. My mother was fearful for Cheryl’s safety outside our house and believed that only she was capable of handling her. My father, meanwhile, weakened and worn down by the situation, just went along with whatever my mother decided.
So writing was what I lived for. And before I had even heard Sinetar’s magical words, I KNEW, I BELIEVED that having a wildly successful writing career was my purpose, and all I had to do was survive the living hell that was my family and soon the fame and success due me would be served to me on a silver platter. After all, I believed, I didn’t suffer through the travails of my family not to be rewarded with major success from the universe! The universe even gave me a small taste of fame at the age of 14, when I came in sixth place in our local paper’s writing competition, the topic of which, ironically enough, was why my mother should be mother of the year! Never mind that the article was pure fiction; seeing my name for the first time in print was a thrill that I can only imagine is similar to a drug user’s first high…never quite to be duplicated yet always strived for.
And so strive for fame is what I did.
At first, I had limited success with getting magazine articles and short stories published in minor periodicals. Then the internet came along, and I found a little more success writing for several blogs and websites. But like a drug or alcohol addiction, the minor compensation and minimal fame that I received was definitely not enough. I needed more! So I gave up blog writing and tried my hand at screenwriting, thinking that if fame and fortune is what you desire, then Hollywood is the place to do it. I wrote three screenplays in three years, and then I took the plunge and entered screenwriting competitions where I came in as semi-finalist or runner-up (among many, however). At the same time I also tried sending my screenplays to agents and producers, but there was little to no interest. After 10 years of pursuing screenwriting, which I had deemed my PURPOSE, I hit a brick wall. I never made it to the winner’s circle in any screenwriting competitions, and Hollywood wasn’t breaking down my door to buy my screenplays. So I gave up screenwriting.
I then decided to try my hand at writing a children’s book about a child’s love for his dog. Again I thought, this has to be IT, the answer to my long-awaited hopes and dreams–my longtime love of dogs combined with my love of writing. What could be more purposeful?! After three months, the book was complete, and I sent it out to at least 20 publishers. Well, similar to the proverbial lead balloon, my children’s book idea went nowhere. After a couple of publisher inquiries to read it, my manuscript (along with all my hopes and dreams for its success) was dead in the water.
That was it…I was devastated. I developed writer’s block that lasted for three years. I eventually became angry and depressed, especially whenever I read about some young fresh face who had just sold a screenplay or a book seemingly without any effort. I soon started cursing the universe. WHY NOT ME??!! WHY AM I A FAILURE?!! IS WRITING REALLY MY PURPOSE?!
Well, after much soul searching and some (A LOT) of psychotherapy, I slowly came to realize that the universe doesn’t owe me anything, and it was my quest for fame and fortune that overtook my love for writing and caused me to lose my way.
In my mind, I equated finding my purpose with fame and making tons of money, and I had forgotten that having a purpose is not all about that. Even though I may not have found the media’s definition of success, I was definitely not a failure. Just by pursuing what I love in a simple, joyous way, this gives my life purpose.
So now, even though I still have moments where I look out my office window and dream about sending out that old screenplay to one more agent for another shot at Hollywood fame, I simply take a deep breath and try to take it back to the beginning and remember to keep things simple.
And as for writing, now I simply write for myself and for you, dear reader. And if just one of you becomes inspired from what I’ve written, then I think I served my purpose.
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