How to Choose to Be a Writer

How to Choose to Be a Writer

No matter how productive we are, our time–unlike our wishful imagination–is limited. Think of all the optimistic agendas you’ve had for your day. And think of how many times life seems to have had its own agenda and has met your request with denial. I, of all people, can relate to that. I’m a newly graduated dentist with a wide array of interests, which have the nasty habit of occasional colliding with reality.

What I want to do

I want to write

Since I was a kid, I’ve always found the simple act of joining random letters into meaningful words to be magical.

I want to have time

To spend with my lovely fiancée, to hang out with friends, to go to the cinema, to sit home and read a captivating novel, enjoying all the exotic worlds it takes me to.

I want to change

By learning new languages, collecting new faces, and by traveling to a far virgin place with many mysterious stories to tell.

What I really end up doing

I work

Every day I’d wake up at 7 AM. An hour later, I’m at my workplace in a public hospital, ready to operate on patients for six long hours. After a quick nap and a bite, my working hours in a private dental clinic begin, and some days, they might not end until past midnight.

I make lists

By the time I’m finally home, I’m too dead tired to do anything but relax. With a half asleep mind, I start making a big list of all the wonderful postponed things I’d like to do tomorrow in order to break the cycle of routine. It goes on in my dreams all night, until it’s interrupted by the 7 AM alarm, indicating the start of a new day.

Choose what to sacrifice

Like every aspiring writer, I have a dream novel that I know I’ll write someday. For a whole year, it was on the top of my list, yet day after day and list after list, it got shifted to the next day, without me actually writing a single word. It wasn’t until I came by a brilliant quote by Paulo Coelho that I felt something was terribly wrong with my life:

The first symptom of the process of our killing our dreams is the lack of time.

These are not to-do lists: these are dream burials: a sad dark place where dreams go peacefully to die.

I can’t go on living when the only fun I’m having takes place in the enclosed chambers of my mind. I have to breathe the life back into my dreams. I have to reconsider my choices.

I hate to choose. I believe it was Aristotle who once said that a tragedy is a choice between two separate paths, both of which are impossible not to take.

On the one hand, writing represents all the delights of life I’ve always craved. On the other hand, dentistry offers the potential for secure future, but with little or no hope for a change.

The subconscious conflict between what our hearts really want and what our minds are obliged to do is ongoing. For months, I was totally devastated–torn out between the fairy world of dreams and the rigidity of reality, thinking there had to be a way to ease the pain of making a choice

Last year, I was lucky to watch an interview of the late legend Ray Bradbury. He was mostly talking about his beginnings, both as a writer and a human being. I was captured by the way he talked of writing. Enthusiasm shone from his old, tired eyes, revealing the forever young soul of a child who had chosen never to let go of his dream. I remember him saying:

The things that you do should be things that you love, and things that you love should be things that you do.

There is one word to describe that: Passion.

And it is the answer.

5 unmistakable signs of passion

If passion is the key, which door does it open? Where can we find the true subject of our passion? Here are five signs:

1. You can’t stop daydreaming of what you love.

To help pass time while doing tedious work, I picture myself at my computer, pouring out all my feelings of the moment into words.

2. Anything vaguely attached what you love makes your soul sparkle.

I walk into random book or school-supplies stores just to feel the cover of newly printed books or to browse different types of pens and papers.

3. You want to know all about what you love.

The one thing I enjoy more than reading literature is figuring out how it’s formulated. I just can’t get enough of reading all the writing blogs and how-to books I can get my hands on.

4. You love to talk about what you love.

I can’t dream of a retirement job other better than being a writing coach who guides aspiring talents to success.

5. You can’t stay away from what you love without being frustrated.

To love is to dream. To be frustrated is to bear the burden of an unaccomplished dream.

Okay, it’s settled. Signs do not lie. I love to write. Now what?

What will you buy with your time?

Or as put by Mr. Hemingway’s alter ego Harry the writer puts it in The Snows of Kilimanjaro:

The world is a market in which you buy what you want, not just with money but with your time, with a lot of things. It’s an exchange: you give something and you get something back.

My novel isn’t going to write itself. If I want to be a writer in this lifetime, I have to make a choice and a sacrifice. I have to give something.

I made a decision that wasn’t warmly welcomed in my close circle of trust, a compromise of giving up half my working day and my night hours in order to develop a semi-daily writing routine. But I met all the arguments with a smile, because I knew what I was giving up.

My free time will no longer be the sole possession of my fiancée and loved ones; I’ll have more time alone, but also more tiring work, fewer hours to sleep, and, above all, a noticeably lower income. But on the other hand, I know what I’ll get in return. I’ll be living my dream.

Do you want to be a writer?

You do? But you’re afraid the choice will be just plain too hard? Well, if you just pictured life as a journey with a distinct target and no predetermined road, it won’t be too hard at all. Others will give you direction, but in the end it’s your journey.

You have to take a path of your own choosing and be prepared to face the consequences. There are no best ways, no ideal solutions, no concrete guarantees for success. We only give it our best and try, hoping that one day we’ll get where we want to go. One thing is certain: as long as you’re following your passion, it doesn’t matter where your road takes you. In the end, you will reach your destination, even if it wasn’t the one you had in mind when you set sail. In life, the reward always lies in the journey.

I choose to be a writer. What your choice will be?

Tell me your opinion: What sacrifices have you had to make for your writing?

How to Choose to Be a Writer

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About Bassam Ahmed | @bassam_abulnoor

Bassam Ahmed is a newly graduated dentist trying to make a living in Egypt, struggling to learn the craft of writing. He is an occasional blogger who enjoys writing short stories and articles in his native tongue. Bassam is recently studying for a post graduate degree in dentistry and further working on his first novella. You can contact Bassam via email, Facebook, and (if you read Arabic), his personal blog.

Comments

  1. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Bassam!

  2. Wow, great article Bassam. I particularly love this part: “These are not to-do lists: these are dream burials: a sad dark place where dreams go peacefully to die.”

    I feel conflicted about this sometimes, too. I love writing, but I’m also going to school right now. What will happen when I get my degree (which isn’t writing-related)? I love them both, but will I stop writing once I jump into my career field and start a family?

    And then what type of writing will I do? I love blog writing, but I also have some fiction stories in the works. I want to do it all, but I don’t know if that’s possible. I’m still trying to decide every day if I should just write for the rest of my life.

    This kind of makes me think that yes, I should. After all, it’s what I love. How often do people get to really do what they love?

    Great post!

    • Hello Alicia,
      I don’t think you can stop even if you try.All artists are the same. It’s in your blood. I tried to stop writing for a time and during I felt soulless. I was like a machine walking among people with no passion or motivation. As a writer you’ll never be satisfied by your writing nor the level it has got. It’s always evolving. No matter how good your blog is (and by the way it’s magnificent) you will not stop unless you have your book/novel or even a series of books.
      Glad you’ve liked my post Alicia I do hope my humble words could be of help. Best of luck :)

      • “I tried to stop writing for a time and during I felt soulless. I was like a machine walking among people with no passion or motivation.”

        I did too, and I felt the very exact same way.

        That period of my life made me realize just how much I love writing and how important it is to my realization and happiness.

        • I hope I’d just never have to feel like that ever again. This feeling is just dreadful. No matter how many successes I’d have in a life without writing is going to be miserable and regrettable.

  3. Exellent post, Bassam. Like you, I have a profession that has served me well, and kept me busy 8 hours a day, but doesn’t satisfy the hunger I have to create something more. I tried to quit writing for a couple of years recently. It was as if an appendage had been amputated. I’m surprised my wife didn’t divorce me. When you are given such a gift, it is painful to let it go unused. I have sacrificed my evening hours and weekends. I’ve nearly given up on my love for fishing and hunting (the deer are quite safe, hunting is definately not my calling). And stepped back from my involvement in politics (forgive me my sin). It’s encouraging for me to see other professionals who seek something greater than economic gain. We write because we don’t know how not to write. It’s what gives us life. Thank you for sharing.

    • Hello Ron,
      You speak my words! our circumstances seem so much alike. I know the feeling. It takes the company of a very understanding person to really get used to the pressure the writing life puts us into. I had various conflicts with my fiancee over this certain issue but overall she understands that this is a part of me I can’t let go.
      Yes we have to give up a lot of things we like that others enjoy everyday with no guilt, but in return we gain ourselves. we do something very dear to our hearts and that never had come to anyone without some sort of sacrifice. Glad you like post Ron wish you the best of luck :)

  4. Steve Mathisen says:

    Bassam, what an excellent article. I was encouraged by your words to make braver choices about my writing.

  5. I’m giving up early morning sleep, I’ve decided. With two kids under 5 at home, one of whom is semi-special needs (immune suppressed, post-bone marrow transplant), and me being a stay-at-home mother, I get very little time to myself where I can write uninterrupted. I decided something had to give to achieve my writing goals, so even though I’m a night owl by nature, that’s my husband’s time (when he’s not working, hunting, or fishing), and mornings were the only quiet times where the only soul who may disturb me is the dog–unless one of the kids gets up too early! 5:30 is still not terribly pleasant yet, but hopefully in the next few weeks I’ll get used to it. (I only instituted this policy this week!)

    • Hello Liberty,
      First I’m so sad to hear that about your son hope him a speedy recovery. I Like you started by developing a routine that I was too strict about, first it was really hard sticking to it but with time it developed into a habit. Even If i don’t have something to write I’d just free write any thoughts in my head knowing that the right words will eventually come. The Important thing is to never stop writing. Keep on fighting and in the end you’ll achieve all the great things that were once just a dream.

  6. This is a great piece, Bassam. Only one caveat… Don’t jump into anything at the “grass is always greener” aspect of most dreams. Someone who wants to be a writer should also remember Dorthy Parker’s wise words: “ “I hate writing, I love having written.”

    But when the passion is there…. even the work is play of a kind.

    • Hello Eden,
      I know exactly what you’re saying. Everything seems lovely when it’s just a dream, but when it comes to execution it”s really a different matter. A great article I once read comes to mind it was under the title ” You wan’t to create?? then be prepared for pain”. I know a lot about the downsides of writing, but I know more that without my writing I wouldn’t be alive. So it’s a risk I’m willing to to take or else I’ll live all my life burdened with regret. Thanks for your kind words Eden.

  7. Tanya Heath says:

    Hey Bassam, I’m so glad that you wrote this article. I feel as though this was a beacon of light that was sent directly into my Facebook feed to alert me to what I desperately needed to see!

    First, thank you for being so brave and giving up the stability of a a career in dentistry in order to become a better writer. I’m from Philadelphia, PA, in the United States and our job economy in my city is really bad. Companies are afraid to hire others who don’t have this legendary “3-5 years of experience”. I graduated from a great university in 2010 with a degree in English, and it being 2014 I’m out of the “recent graduate” bracket. I’m no longer eligible for the positions where young adults could possibly receive job placement assistance. I was in a foolish relationship throughout college that broke my credit, and now there are student loan sharks stalking me so bad I’m paranoid that they are going to ask for a kidney or my eventual first born child for payment because I can’t pay up now.

    I have three part time jobs which are all scattered and don’t pay nearly enough for me to fix my credit. I hear most often from family, friends, and anyone who listens to me speak about my issues at my restaurant (I’m a server/bartender in one of my jobs) — “Oh, you have a degree in English? What are you going to do with THAT? Teach?”. Though the thought of teaching trickled across my mind, I ultimately smile and reply, “No, I’m a writer”. This gets the eyes rolling and the teeth sucking, and people ultimately think I’m afraid to work in the “real world”; that same world that won’t hire me for a full-time job because of my bad credit and ironic lack of job experience.

    Three part time jobs drain the living inspiration out of me. I got to such a point last year where I would open up the document of my novel and just stare at it for hours without writing or editing a single word. I would spend relaxation time checking Facebook for nothing and trolling Pinterest for escape that I couldn’t get in my real life. I’m so afraid that if I concentrate more on what I truly want to do: writing, blogging, conversing with people around the world; that I’m not going to have any income at all because I’m not out working these jobs.

    My third job ushering at an unpopular theater ends this Sunday and will not resume full time until July, and I guess it’s back to my retail position which only gives me 8 hours a week because we’re in the off season, and back to the bar/restaurant which is struggling because we can’t maintain clientele. I’m literally at the crossroad of pledging myself to hopefully making more money or just…taking the risk and sitting at home and finishing this novel (it’s nearly complete at 18/24 chapters) and trying to publish it.

    Do I give up the time I could soon be spending at the restaurant, MAYBE making money? Because remember, as a waitress I only make $2.90/hr and depend on tips, so if nobody comes into the place (and most of the time they don’t), I don’t make any money. I’ve sat through 8 and 12 hour shifts at that place only to sob while going home because after wasting such a chunk of time sitting at the bar and hoping someone comes in, I only made $30 for a whole day’s effort. I don’t think spending time at these three useless jobs is worth it if there are other things I could and should be doing. Other things in which I love. Other things I could focus on and probably would have finished by now if I weren’t preoccupied and blinded by the need for money and being trapped in the eternal cycle of a system designed to keep young adults down.

    Phew. Thank you for indicating that we writers aren’t as insane as the outside world considers us to be. In my heart, I already know that I’m going to finish this novel and get ready to publish it. That’s what I want to do, and sitting down to complete it is the only way to start. Is it normal to feel petrified? I hope so. But the hope and the faith to press on is here, despite the fear. I just can’t wait to get my art out into the world and hopefully make an impression on someone down the line like you and K.M. have done for us!

    Much love!
    -Tanya Heath
    @livetheshowtyme

    • Dear Tanya,

      I believe one of the greatest subconscious journeys we all embark on is to find our kindred among the suffering. That like-minded struggle pulls at our heart strings and beckons us to reach out. In doing so, it seems to bridge the gap between not being able to resolve our own problems, yet finding helpful advice for others when we failed to find it for ourselves. In doing so, it often raises us up when the systems in play for young adults, nay all adults, are nefariously fashioned only to raze us.

      I would say, as you’ve already accomplished a degree in English, use it to possibly explore editing other writers work for income. I’m not schooled in all that is involved there, but it’s a considerable place to start. Freelance writing for pay is another option, but I also hear it can erode at your time to push out a novel; so tread carefully there. And as to those whose eyes roll at being at writer, well, I say this. At one point during the day, those same eyes will likely affix themselves to a TV show or movie (if not a book) in order to escape that “real world” that burdens us all. And behind the manifestation of said media, guess who plays a part in creating them; writers.

      Besides, you already have over two-thirds of your novel completed. You’re well ahead of me Tanya! While I do not know its subject matter, I feel it will be inspirational at its underlying core from your comment; “I just can’t wait to get my art out into the world and hopefully make an impression on someone down the line like you and K.M. have done for us!”

      So ask yourself this. Have you considered how much your role in writing this book could inspire others? Stories illuminate the imagination. Often, that efflux of resplendence casts a deeper light in and among the forlorn dreams within all of us. What if, in some of those chancing at a momentary escape from the “real world,” were suddenly reunited with themselves as their dreams were kindled? Would not a spark of faith and hope be offered to those down trodden in spirit? Just think, you could be a part of encouraging the reformation of that which usually gets lost or broken along the way in most people’s lives.

      Best wishes of success,
      ..D
      @DE_Clements
      FB = D.E.Clements.Wordsmith

  8. I can’t thank you enough Tanya for sharing your tale. You are a fighter and comparing to your suffering mine diminishes.May be all these jobs are giving you loads of good tales waiting to be written in one of you great upcoming novels. Great art never comes without suffering. Think of it all as little distraction that will soon fade out leaving you nothing but fame and success. Think that someday you’ll write your novel and prove to the world your excellence in the thing you love most. I’m waiting for that day to read your first of many great novels.Thank you very much.

  9. That is powerful! Thank you for sharing. This whole idea of my dreams and my life not looking anything alike has been bothering me for several years now, and my goal for this new year is to stop being afraid – to pray, to seek guidance, to be firmly convinced what I should do, and then to jump in a do it with all my heart, and not be afraid of what others say, or what my own fear whispers in my ear.
    I started today, by setting aside other things for awhile, ignoring the fear of “not getting it all done” and wrote over 3,000 words in the beginning of my WIP. I’ve had the outline done for months now, but was too afraid to sit down and start the actual draft. But I finally did.
    It was wonderful!

    • That’s very astonishing to hear Amber. I hope my words played a role in that decision even if a little. Sometimes our goal is there in front of us all the time only fogged by fear and hesitation. All we need is some form of clarity and a push in the right direction. The most important thing I gained by publishing my article is knowing that I’m not alone and going through this phase of being lost and depressed is only momentary. Wish you the best of luck with your WIP :)

  10. You write beautifully and your post resonates with me so much! I am a writer and I write, but my first passion is to the creative process. I hope to find a way to combine them. Until then, I make sacrifices when I can to do what I love. All I can say is that it is SO worth it. Thanks so much! :)

    • Your kind words is beautiful as well thank you Robyn. No matter how the sacrifices are grave it’s always worth it to do the thing you truly love instead of wasting your precious days on something you don’t truly care about.

  11. I gave up a well paid job that was just too time consuming and didn`t gave me the space I needed to write.

    I have all the symptoms of passion that you listed.

    Writing is in the core of my essence and identity.

    Thanyou for this great post :)

  12. Dear Bassam,

    Thanks for sharing your story in a thought provoking and inspiring article. I for one, needed to be reminded of these things; especially now. I agree with you about passion. It seems to be the resounding root beneath every foundation of success that I encounter. It is where I too will stake my claim to pursue my dreams.

    Your decision was a tough one. But I feel confident that had you kept along your current path, true happiness would have never been your companion. Money is necessary to sustain life, but it does not guarantee that you will enjoy it. And without that, even the greatest possessions pale in comparison.

    I traversed a similar road for almost eighteen years to provide for my family, earn a stable income, and maintain the benefits of health insurance. Yet, with each passing year, I lost more of myself and grew bitter and withdrawn along the way. Through a long turn of events, those ties of bondage have finally been severed as I continue today to re-establish myself. Although I am still plagued with second-guessing myself a lot and copious financial insecurity, deep down, I feel I was meant to be, a lumberjack! No wait, writer (bit of Monty Python humor there).

    So, I take everything day by day now; listen, learn, explore the deeper details. I do my very utmost to try and stay focused on those coveted internal embers; for which I fan all the life into that my imagination can muster.

    Take care,
    ..D
    @DE_Clements
    FB = D.E.Clements.Wordsmith

    • Dear D. E.,
      Sorry If I’ve kept you waiting but I’ve only seen your insightful comment just now.
      First of all thanks for all these extra-kind words you Showered your message with . Your words have made my day :)
      You speak my mind, after a while in my job I achieved financial security but it just wouldn’t do it. Sometimes what the soul wants cannot be bought just by money.
      I’m really happy for you to have found your way after years of losing sight of what really matters to you. May be if I were you I wouldn’t be able to make such a choice. I still have no family to support so I can afford to take risks.You are a true hero to have come this long way of self exploration despite all the obstacles.
      Second guessing is an integral part of the process of any wild decision making , But as you probably already know the final outcome usually worth it.
      Keep on writing, keep on dreaming, and try to mute all the second guessing voices you might hear.
      Best wishes
      Bassam

  13. I am currently reading your book Dreamlander (which, by the way, is wonderful) and through that I discovered your website. This particular post has been both inspiring and saddening to me. Here’s why: Every time I read, new inspirations and thoughts swirl around in my head and it’s been that way for a long time. I started putting pen to paper at the age of fifteen and was obsessed by it for years, but then life hit and now I’m struggling to regain that dream/ability. I used to eat and breathe writing, but now… I find it exhausting and frustrating. I still want to do it- my soul screams to do it- but I don’t know how to ignite the fire again! I wish I would have kept at it when I had that editor interested in my manuscript several years back, but I was only eighteen then and the idea of success scared me. I guess it’s true what they say: Hindsight is 20/20.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying Dreamlander! I would suggest you try to get to the root of your lack of desire to write. If you really are exhausted, that may be a sign you need to take a break – not just from writing but from berating yourself for not writing. And if you’re frustrated, try to figure out *why* you’re frustrated and address that problem.

  14. Dear Bassam,

    Thank you for this post. As the many replies have indicated, its an issue that many struggle with. I agree with it in a large way, though on the other hand I have a bit of a bone to pick. Though stories and writing are what make my soul sing, I believe love and care for those around you should always come before your dreams. Not that we shouldn’t have dreams or shouldn’t reach, strive, and sacrifice for them. Its a hard hard balancing act, and as I look ahead to marriage and raising kids, I’m scared to think how I will take good care of my family while also fulfilling my dream of writing (just a note, raising a family is also one of my dreams!).

    I will do it however, and I trust the Lord will give me the wisdom and diligence to make writing something I can use to support my family, not take myself away from my family. Its a hard step to take between writing simply to fulfill the urge, and writing for a goal and a purpose: to bless those around you and gain success that will in turn benefit your family.

    I firmly believe you should do what you love and love what you do. It will be doubly hard in my family because both my fiance and I are writers, and both of us struggle to fulfill our dream while still working enough to prepare to raise a family. That’s why I’m trying hard to be smart about my writing and studying from successful writers, so I can not just write but make money writing. Not easy, not guaranteed, but the most you can do is try.

    Best of luck to all aspiring writers out there: may we inspire those around us, take care of those we love, and keep pouring our souls into our stories!

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  1. […] I choose to be a writer. What your choice will be?  […]

  2. […] Like every aspiring writer, I have a dream novel that I know I'll write someday. For a whole year, it was on the top of my list, yet day after day and list after list, it got shifted to the next day, without me actually writing a single word …  […]

  3. […] “Like every aspiring writer, I have a dream novel that I know I'll write someday. For a whole year, it was on the top of my list, yet day after day and list after list, it got shifted to the next day, without me actually writing a single word …”  […]

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