Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Virtue versus vice.

Have you ever noticed, dear one, that virtue or vice is in the eye of the beholder? If one waits around for things, she might be described as patient, that lovely, impossible virtue, or...she might be described as sedentary. Lazy. Unmotivated.

If one is expressive in feeling and point of view, one might be described as open, frank, no-nonsense, forthright. Others will say, however, that one is opinionated, loud, rude and pushy.

Tomato. Tomahto. Let's call the whole thing off.

So...not to name any names, but let's just say someone, let's go with "LM," shall we? Yes, perfect. Let's say "LM" is teetering on the brink of termination. The ugly, Arnold-Schwarzenegger-on-a-motorcycle type of termination, too. Now, LM [as we have agreed to call her] is very aware of the tenuousness of her position and has taken steps to reduce the chances of homelessness and starvation should this occur. She has applied for other positions within her current company. She has applied for open positions outside of her company. She has a solid Plan B.

In this case, Plan B would mean emptying out the 401k she's been building for the last seven years and, after a brief period of sobbing as the taxes and fees are deleted, she would live on this and focus exclusively on writing and marketing her work.

Plan B doesn't sound half-bad, does it? In fact, given that LM wishes to make her living as a published author, this sounds a bit like a dream come true. Okay, a dream come true with a finite boundary. The 401k isn't that large. Maybe a year, year and a half's worth of writing time.

Boy, doesn't that sound great! So great, in fact, one might wonder why LM hasn't already implemented Plan B. And this is where the question of virtue and vice comes into play.

If LM quits her current hell-job, empties her 401k and sets to writing, she may be demonstrating courage. It takes tremendous courage to pursue a dream without a safety net. On the other hand, without a backup plan to the backup plan, she might be merely foolhardy.

I think the difference in courage and foolishness is, sadly, dependent on the outcome. Edmund Hillary was wildly courageous in his venture to climb Mt. Everest. [Good job, Ed! Way to go, buddy!!] If he had failed to reach the summit or died in the attempt, how many people would have called him courageous? How many people would have called him a freakin' moron?

"Did you hear? The Hillary kid bit it trying to climb that big-ass
"Ah, jeeze. His poor parents. What the hell was he thinking?"
"I don't know that he was thinking. What an idiot."

Hillary, himself, might have thought the very same thing as he was falling into a crevasse, had he done so. "WTF was I thinking????? God. I hate when my mother's right." Maybe. Maybe Mrs. Hillary was a lovely woman.

But this is hardly the point.

Let's just say LM takes a deep breath, tenders her resignation, dives into the deep end of unemployment and complete lack of health care benefits. She writes. She submits proposals to editors and agents. She writes some more. Is she brave? Valiant, even? Undaunted by life's vagaries? Or did she just blow seven years of retirement savings a mere twenty/twenty-five years before her age of retirement? Has she destroyed any chance of buying her home? Has she completely lost her mind?

Henri Matisse once said that creativity required courage. True enough, but as I ponder that, I am reminded something brilliant my friend M has said to me:

Creativity is a prerequisite to survive your own courage.

Which, then, is the best choice? Creativity-bred courage? Or caution?


  1. You are a talented, GIFTED individual who clearly has the gift of the written word. Alas you can't simply do what you love and be paid for it!!! Artists have suffered with this dilemma since.... well since "artists" started artistry.
    I'm a fan of creativity bred courage as you described... but I'm also partial to sleeping indoors with bills paid.. so.... I'd be a bigger fan of caution. But thats just me, not LM. LM will have to sort that out, and my feeling is that something is going to happen that will help you with your decision.
    You will be shown the way.... I'm certain of it.

  2. There is courage, also, in finding the energy to work on one's love while employed. It's so friggin' easy after a boring day job to opt for vegging out in the evenings rather than applying one's passions; I speak from experience, and find your productivity impressive. Mountain climbing may take courage-- stupid is doing so without a belay line, respect for the elements, or a viable plan.

    Write for your love of writing. Remember that publishers are not in the circle of things you control or can rely upon-- yet. (Insert "Muwahaha" with steepled fingers while contemplating your future literary-world dominance.) Please don't depend on timely and adequate recognition of your talents by those who can (and will) eventually help you turn your efforts into money.

    Prospect of unemployment is a cloud with "more time to write" as that proverbial silver lining. What about job-hunting prior to being let go? (Do as I say, not as I do...)

    Have courage. Apply wisely.

  3. I say put your options in a hat, and pull out your fate :-)

    not like its set in stone :-)