“The great late radical feminist theologian Mary Daley wrote in an introduction to her first book about the trouble she had just getting around to writing it. Everything else—cleaning the house, buying groceries, taking the dog to the vet—took precedence over this thing that she wanted to do more than anything else… eventually she determined that she would have to reverse that, and put her creative life in the foreground and everything else in the background. She came up with a mantra: ‘I have to turn my soul around’.” — Michelle Huneven, novelist
By Dawn Onley
From the time I was a junior in high school, I knew without a flinch of a doubt three things: I enjoyed writing. I was reasonably good at it. I wanted to be a writer.
Immediately, I started researching career options. My queries centered on the most consistent and stable avenues to make a living as a full-time writer. It may be hard to fathom now, with the layoffs and buyouts that continue to pummel newspapers across the country, but back then journalism topped the list. I began reading the local paper more consistently to study journalistic style.
I also starting honing my Plan B. If journalism didn’t work out, I could get a job at the insurance company where several of my family members worked, I reasoned.
All of my life, I’ve set up a Plan B. I have always prided myself on having something to fall back on.
More often than not, I worked my Plan A. But because even the best-laid plans can fail, I have relied on Plan B when it was advantageous to do so, or when I had exhausted all options for Plan A, or when I was too scared to vigorously pursue Plan A. Over the years, Plan B has served me well as a security blanket.
Now, I’m starting to reconsider this approach.
Just as there’s a downside to being comfortable, I’m starting to see the disadvantages of setting up a Plan B. I’m on a path of blazing new trails and trying new things and I’m starting to realize that the problem with planning a contingency is your mind is already sort of set for failure.
I’m starting to think that there is a different type of hustle that comes out of us when there is no other way. When all of our eggs are in one basket. When we are singularly focused. When failure has more dire consequences. When we don’t have the luxury of losing.
I’m starting to wonder what would happen if I went after Plan A with all of the energy, time, resources and focus that I can muster. What would happen if we all threw caution to the wind, in pursuit of our Plan As, and never looked back?
First, I feel I need to get something straight. I’m not advocating that we go without a plan, winging our destinies like my son wields his Captain America shield. We need directions and a map (ok, GPS) to get to an unfamiliar destination, so why would this be any different? Plans are essential.
This is also not to be confused with ditching our rainy day funds, or foregoing the need to make ends meet. It simply means that I believe there is a certain serendipity that is released when there is no other way. It’s what aspiring actors and musicians do when they pack their belongings and head to the big city. They may need to work a side gig to afford food and a place to stay, but that’s a small price to pay for realizing the dream.
Plan A is why we are here. It’s what we were born to do.
It’s why the quote above gave me pause. When I happened upon it recently, it was as if my innermost struggles were laid bare for all to see. Turning my soul around to focus on what I was put on this Earth to do has just become my primary mission moving forward. Fear is a distraction. The busyness of life can knock us off focus.
Playing it too safe hinders growth. When we play it safe for too long, we tend to get comfortable, and that’s not always a good thing (see why here).
As a writer, I’m a chronicler of life. In this regard, there’s really no distinction between my personal and professional being. As a truth seeker and teller, it’s how I identify. It’s how I think. It’s who I am.
It’s my voice. Playing it too safe or prioritizing other things ahead of the thing I most yearn to do can drown it out. It’s time to clear my throat and sing.
I hope you’ll join in on the melody.