My name is Aly Grauer, and two days ago, I quit my day job.
Gosh, that sounds crazy. Completely insane. In fact, I’m sitting here at my desk at home, on a very uncomfortable stool-chair (my apartment is too small for a decent desk chair) listening to the clock tick and my stomach rumble. I’m thinking about how I’m going to cover bills when my small savings cushion runs out. I’m wondering how I can get more people to buy my book. I’m worried about my parents. My dad is finally coming home from the hospital today and my mom has surgery scheduled on Monday. I’m thinking about my brother and his wife and their baby, and how amazing and strange and miraculous life is, even with all the twists and turns and sudden drops and stops. I’m wondering how many people will think it’s selfish of me to quit my job at a time like this. At any time. I’m wondering how many people will say, “I mean, I know you published a novel, but you’re not exactly Stephen King, so why did you quit your day job?” My heart is pounding as I think about having to go to rehearsal tonight, have previews for my show this weekend, and film another episode of Space Happens on Saturday. There’s just so much going on.
That’s when it hit me: There is just so much going on… and a lot of it is art.
People say, if you love the thing, do the thing. Do it with all your heart, do it because you love it, make your life about what you love to do. It’s hard for artists to do that in a way that doesn’t look completely selfish – because it is inherently selfish. We are artists because we want to create art, and we want people to know about it and appreciate it and love it. So to stop going to one’s day job in order to Make More Art is a huge decision. A huge risk, and a huge potential for reward.
Recently, someone whom I love very much took my hands, looked me in the eye, and said “Aly, you need to write full time. You need this. You need to learn, and grow, and write as much as you can, and make this happen for yourself. You’ve already written a novel, and people like it. It’s good. You’re off to a great start. You know deep down that you’re capable of more greatness… so do it. Drop what you’re stressing about and just do it. I’m here to catch you if you stumble, and I’m here to make sure you don’t sabotage yourself. I’m here. Just do it.”
It stunned me. I’ve always wanted to be a full-time writer. But it isn’t exactly something you can just become out of nowhere – there is a ton of work, study, experience, and change involved in that particular metamorphosis as literally anyone who writes full-time (or mostly full-time) can tell you. I had no idea that it could be something I could at least try; I thought I had to wait until I had three books out, a literary agent, a husband, preferably one with steady income, etc etc etc. I thought there were other hoops I had to jump through to get there.
Maybe that’s true. But I know that when I started telling people I wanted to try this on for size, no one said: “Why?” No one said: “But you don’t have enough experience.” No one said: “You aren’t good enough for that.” No one said: “But how will you live?”
Every single person I told said: “That’s fantastic! You have my support. Let me know how I can help.”
I recently read internet queen and permanent hot topic buzzword Amanda Palmer’s book, “The Art of Asking.” It’s part memoir, part meditation, part philosophy, and it’s very moving and incredibly fascinating. I knew a lot of the material already, having been an avid Twitter follower of Amanda’s for several years running, but the depth to which she allows the reader to peer into her memory and her soul and watch her life tangle, untangle, crystalize, and erupt is pretty astonishing. I felt myself living certain stories of hers with similarities to my own experiences as a performer and as a longing, yearning writer.
When I graduated from college, I told myself: “All right. You used to write stories all the time. You have a novel draft that needs revising. How’s about you learn to write short stories, and find an anthology to get published in?” So I spent a year or two reading anthologies, researching contests and publications, and studying social media for clues as to how exactly I could climb the beanstalk into the Realm of Real Authors. I had some considerable rejections on short stories (which deserved those rejections) and learned to do better, each and every time I wrote or revised something. I thrived on finding things to submit to, on following new authors on Twitter with similar genres and interests to me, on watching how the internet has bloomed into an incredible grocery store produce section of authors ripe for publication, agents ripe for querying, and ideas ripe for writing. (Seriously, Twitter. TWITTER, you guys.)
When I finally got a short story published, I said to myself: “Great! This is great! Now we can begin to learn about working with editors. And revision. And marketing. And we can revise a novel and start prepping that to query.” It didn’t occur to me that a month after that anthology was released, the publishers would come to me and say, “Hey, do you have any novels ready to publish?” I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was way too soon… but I said yes, and in November 2014 they released my first novel, “On The Isle of Sound and Wonder.”
Writing has been the one thing that consistently I have created for myself and of myself. I have been actively writing a long time, and the last three years have shown how quickly I can achieve the goals I set reasonably for myself. So now it’s time for some new goals. Big, serious, specific goals.
I want to write my next novel. I want to revise it. I want to polish it. I want to query it, and find representation with an awesome literary agent. I want to grow and learn and hone my skills and take all of this to the Next Level.
I’m leaping. And I have faith that there’s a net in case I fall.