Even after I decided I wanted to be a writer—a career path that everyone, especially my parents, agreed was nebulous at best—I eventually saw how one could become a “successful” writer. Get into an MFA program, get published in a literary journal, get an agent, sell a novel, win a prize maybe, and, obviously get writing. I don’t think I’m alone in this way of thinking. I think we all, generally, have some idea of the signifiers of success.
In 1901, a woman threw herself over Niagara Falls in a barrel. She was the first to survive this trip, which she had executed specifically for fame and fortune, though she earned more of the former than the latter. Despite world-wide headlines and a number of speaking engagements, she remained poor, hawking photo-ops and signatures to tourists. She also wrote a novel about the experience.
Here’s a possibility: as writers, we have more of the one truly non-renewable resource in the world—time. And I’m not just talking about quantitative, chronological time. When we sit down in solitude and think about life, we extend life. When we read about the different permutations in which lives have been led, or when we contemplate life in our own writing—time is stretched, warped, mutated, created anew.
Socially, you can be a hermit if you want to; lock yourself up in a room and just write for two years. No one’s probably going to miss you—there are no required events to attend except for the first day meeting. Even student readings are informal and optional. You can finally experiment on growing that beard thick, long, and covered in crumbs.