21st Century Brontë #10: The Money Problem, Part 2

21st Century Brontë #10 by Brontë Bettencourt

The Money Problem, Part 2

I kept telling myself that I could handle whatever my job throws at me. This work was not, technically, what I graduated college for, but ultimately this would be a secure, if random stepping stone on my path to publishing stories. This job paid the bills. I would be letting a lot of people down if I crumbled. I was afraid of disappointing my excellent peers at this job, who always seemed so polished and apt at the game of social interaction.

In one of my creative writing workshops back at the University of Central Florida, the professor said something that stuck with me ever since:

“Some writers don’t make it, not because they don’t have the skill or the drive, but because they love people too much.”

Writing is a selfish, solitary activity, despite its goal of making readers feel less alone. It is disappearing into the crevices of my mind with these extensions of my personality, entering the world on occasion to beg for feedback, like nourishment.

But I’ve never had a knack for isolating myself. As a kid I was always on the phone. In high school I would come home and toy with the idea of completing homework while either dungeon-crawling in World of Warcraft or creating stories with friends online. In college there were clubs, work, and classes.

Post-college, it’s been the standard 9-5, complete with a home-cooked meal and a boyfriend to cuddle with. My job deals with companies and representatives across the continental United States. With someone always needing to speak to me via email or phone call, I was never truly alone.

I’ve decided to leave this job.

Fortunately, my prior employer offered me enough hours (20-30 a week) at a coffee shop to take care of essentials, ultimately giving me time to focus.

I’d like to think walking away from a secure job makes me a stronger person. I would like to think I’m not making a mistake by forsaking a standard day job, ousting a potential career path before it could blossom. I’ve committed myself to delaying having a place of my own. I share rent and living space with my boyfriend and two other roommates. I’m overcome with insecurities of somehow fucking up my 20s, because now is apparently the time to lay the foundations for a house, for marriage, and… children?

That’s what my mother did, at least. She took care of me, my grandpa, and our two dogs. She earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, studying way into the early hours of the morning before a computer she taught herself to use. All of this was achieved, not through her passion for art, but with a solid 9-5 job as a litigation paralegal. By no means does she regret her decisions, but it did come with a cost.

I had a secure upbringing because she was so selfless, so there is a part of me that believes that the lack of security is what fuels my own ambitions.

Meanwhile, I flounder at the thought of eating because that is another deterrent from productivity. An entire day can pass, fruitless, as I devour entire seasons of shows on Netflix. I’m either emotionally detached or reeling from experiencing too many feelings simultaneously.

Wuthering Heights

Did my mother have to be reading Wuthering Heights at the time of her pregnancy with me? Wuthering Heights, where the characters are either too bland or too lost to unyielding chaos of their own emotions. Maybe I revel in the chaos. If I settle, if the pattern becomes too monotonous, and I grow complacent. All I need is enough to get by, in order to keep the dream of publishing alive. Because there has to be an amount of selfishness in order to publish, to think that your thoughts and ideas are entertaining enough for a publisher to take a risk on you. And maybe that’s why a selfless role in the corporate world is ultimately so difficult for me to uphold.

I want to believe that my time creating is more valuable than a paycheck derived from data entry. I want to believe that my stories are too entertaining to be left unwritten.

I want to prove that I am an artist. I don’t want to commit to a full time job when those hours should go to writing my novel series. If I can get by with part time work and freelancing, then I’d rather do that. The solidity of office work feels too final, when in my 20s I should be able to make stupid mistakes. I still want to get my Masters, and if funding allows it my Doctorate as well. I want to be a published author and I’ll put as many hours in as I need because a part of me would crumble without it. I’m not saying I’ll become a best seller. But I’d be damned if I didn’t give it 100% while this spark of madness still felt possible.


21st Cen Bronté

Brontë Bettencourt (Episode 34) graduated from the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors in English Creative Writing. When she’s not writing or working, she is a full time Dungeon Master and Youtube connoisseur.

3 responses to “21st Century Brontë #10: The Money Problem, Part 2”

  1. As someone who has pursued writing all my life, here’s a few thoughts after reading this:

    1. Writers write. You are already a published writer just by posting these blogs.

    2. Make writing a priority. Write every day. If you write 500 words a day for a year, you will have 182,500 words written in a year’s time. That is enough for two novels and some short stories. You can do 500 words in an hour. Choose a time that is convenient and that is your writing time. Give it Netflix or television or whatever it takes for just one hour a day. Once you do that, you will see your writing improve so much. It’s like the musician who chooses not to practice every day. There’s a pretty good chance he will not be a professional musician.

    3. I am not sure your professor was right when he said that writers don’t writers because they love people too much. I can’t speak about other writers. But I do think that one of the reasons I write is because I love people too much. I love them enough to want to give them my best when I create and post a story. I love them because my characters are based on real people I love. I think you have to love people if you sit down and write withstanding all that solitude for your reader. At least, that’s my perspective. Of course, it’s hard to make a generalized statement about writers not loving people too much. Every writer is different from every other writer.

    4.Find a role model. There are lots of writers who carved a career in spite of all the daily obligations they had. Two examples: Alice Munro and Raymond Carver. Carver started writing short stories while he was doing laundry. He chose short stories because they didn’t take long periods of focus at a time.

    5. Do what Ray Bradbury did at the beginning of his career. He wrote a short story a week. At the end of a year’s time, you could have 52 stories.

    6.Good luck with your writing career. It’s important. You will regret if you don’t pursue it.

    1. Don,

      I think the axiom about writers not being able to write because they love people too much is pragmatically about how much time we grant to other people. There are people who not only don’t have that 1 hour a day, but don’t have enough hours to sleep. If we can pry ourselves loose from actual people enough to do the writing (which is why Jonathan Lethem and Garrison Keillor both told me to write in the morning), then we can’t do the writing.

      But on the aesthetic side, you are absolutely correct about the need to love our characters. Junot Diaz would agree, and so would Virginia Woolf, in “Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown.” We owe Mrs. Brown everything we are capable of. And our other characters as well.

      Apart from that distinction, I heartily agree with your thoughtful observations above.

  2. […] a previous post I talked about leaving the security of a corporate job since it was too stressful. Three employees […]

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