Paper Trails

People always tell me that I’m too hard on myself. That I push myself to breaking point and never take the time to stop and reflect on how much I have achieved. It’s a fair point. I’m my own harshest critic. I have been known to beat myself up over every little fault in my work; when I finish a piece I want to be able to stand back and tell myself that I am completely satisfied with what I have produced. I don’t want to create second-rate dribble that I as the creator find shaky or mundane. If I’m not confident or inspired by what I’ve written, no one else will be either.

I’m hard on myself because I care. Because in many aspects of my life I have a tendency to slip into this near enough is close enough mentality that threatens to derail my dreams by way of complacency. If I’m not pushing I’m settling. And if I’m settling I’m giving up.

When this blog first came to fruition I tried to compete with other writers. I thought that the best way to ignite my own creativity and success was to challenge that of those who had come before me. If someone wrote two posts a week, I wanted to write three. If they had fifteen followers, I wanted thirty. If a writer was better than I was I wanted to break their knees and watch their reputation crumble. But over time I have come to realize that the only person I should be competing with is myself.

There is no one else on the face of this earth who is capable of writing like I do. There’s no one who has lived through the same experiences, no one who has felt the same heartache, elation, fears or successes as I have. To compare myself to someone who has lived through a different set of circumstances and witnessed the world through another pair of eyes is unfair and idiotic.

So rather than draw unfair comparisons with my fellow writer, I strive to challenge myself. I have pushed myself harder and harder until now I finally feel as though my talent is starting to catch up with my heart. I’m producing fewer posts on this site as of late, but I have never been more proud to attach my name to my work. Yet as I’ve become more proficient in my craft I’ve faced more and more questions about my future and my finances.

‘You’re a writer? You must make a fortune! How much do you sell your articles for?’

…Ah, they’re free. I don’t make a single cent from this site. In fact, my finances are pretty fucked if we are being totally honest. I’m a writer not a goddamn accountant.

The questioning drives me crazy. I didn’t start writing and blogging to make money. I started because I was a very sad and lonely boy who needed to find his place in the world. Sure, I’ve achieved some pretty amazing things in the past few years. I’ve met some brilliant minds, won a few competitions and published a novel; but I’ve never really chased money. I’ve never felt comfortable selling my soul to follow the paper trails that lead to commercial success; rather I’ve been content to forge my own path through the great seas of literature.

It sounds crazy doesn’t it? I want to make a living out of being a writer but I’m not actively pursuing monetary gain. At a surface level there’s a flaw in my logic. I want to make writing my profession, but to do so I need to make some money. The very definition of a profession is a paid occupation that usually involves formal training or qualifications. But my theory is this: don’t chase the money. Chase the dream and the money will follow.

Society tends to place too much importance on paper, copper, nickel and zinc and not enough on intrinsic happiness and emotional freedom. We base our judgment of a man or woman on their fiscal worth rather then their characteristics and heart, meaning we’ve unconsciously created a skewed perception of success that is limited purely to pecuniary wealth.

I wouldn’t say I came from nothing; my parents provided a stable upbringing for my siblings and I. But I’m a dreamer with a streak of naivety that has seen me make so many poor financial decisions that there’s been times when I have struggled just to feed myself. I know first hand what it’s like to starve for your craft. When I first left my family home I used to go two days without eating just so I could attend university. And while I still haven’t obtained a degree I’d wager that I’m a better writer than anyone with one. I would back my hunger over another writer’s talent and piece of paper any day. Regardless of whether you are rich or poor, young or old, man or woman, I can take your world and tear it down using nothing more than a piece of paper and a pen.

…I can see you sitting there nodding your head. You’re probably thinking that there’s a bunch of nice analogies here. You might even agree with the skewed perceptions of society and the importance we place on financial wealth. Maybe you’ve even had one of those good for you thoughts roll through your mind. But you’re probably also asking yourself what the point of this post is…

I’ve been feeling pretty down lately because I lost sight of my own vision. I’ve been beating myself up over the fact that despite all of my achievements I haven’t really made it in a conventional sense yet. I’m still busting my arse in a job that isn’t what I want to be doing, and I’m still trying to create a name for myself amongst a plethora of authors from across the globe. I started using money as a measuring stick of success and realized that I’m failing miserably in that respect.

But when I ignore money and instead remember to chase my dreams and focus on bettering myself with every post that I write, I realize that I’m succeeding beyond all my expectations. When this blog started in 2012 I was a boy with a goal and a fractured mind. Now I’m a man with a published novel and a fire in my heart that can’t be extinguished.

Fuck following paper trails. Focus on the dream and let the money take care of itself because hunger will always out work money and talent. My hunger helped me publish a novel by age twenty-six and you can mark my words that it’ll see my name on a best sellers list before too long. When I do finally achieve my goals and turn a little profit off of what I’m doing I’ll be able to look back at the hardships I’ve endured and know that it was all worth it. But until then paper, copper, nickel and zinc are meaningless commodities to an eater of worlds.

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