On Financial “Sacrifice”

20130510-IMG_8698A few weeks ago I had my first, real experience with making a financial sacrifice for my writing. I couldn’t begin this post without acknowledging the many blessings that do I have (a job, somewhere to live, the ability to support myself, etc. etc.), but I want to spend some time taking about my experience with the financial side of figuring out what it means to be a writer. To begin, I don’t know if I can truly call this instance a sacrifice (I didn’t really give up anything tangible), but it did signal a sacrificial shift in how I think about the future of my writing. That reality check is what I want to get into today.

When I originally decided to work less and write more I knew that I would have to be frugal, but it wasn’t really that big of a sacrifice. All through my undergrad, I had been living frugally, so it was more of a continuation of an already established lifestyle. This, of course, is fine for a short period of time, but how does one build a long-term lifestyle out of this financial situation?

It’s all good and fine to “get by.” There’s a certain romanticism to living simply for your art. It wears off kinda fast when you’re looking around your cheap apartment, wanting a little more for your life. I knew that I couldn’t afford to rent a more expensive place, but I wanted to live somewhere nicer. Perhaps somewhere with an office. My plan? Simple. I would buy a house. It might take five or ten years–I told people five or ten years, but really I was thinking two or three years–but if I saved enough money for a good-sized down payment, then the mortgage would be relatively low, and I’d be set. I would slowly chip away at saving, but I would have a goal, something to work towards, the promise of a “better” future. You can see, I had it all planned out. Little did I know that banks don’t like to give mortgages to people who only work part time jobs and are taking time to pursue their art (not to mention property taxes, condo fees and those other pesky home-owning expenses).

The bank’s response must seem obvious to everyone else. It seems obvious to me as I write this blog post, but it was a rude awakening. It was the first time that I realized pursuing my writing might mean financial sacrifice. It wasn’t going to be an immediate sacrifice–I wasn’t going to go hungry or anything like that–but it meant that I had to think about my financial future differently.

Maybe I was being too ambitious and getting way ahead of myself, but when you grow up with very little money, long-term financial decisions tend to loom over you and volley for attention.

“You’re young,” Lots of people said to me when I expressed my financial concerns. “Circumstances change so quickly. Don’t worry about buying a house right now.”

In the end, I took their advice.

The wild-eyed plan to buy a house has been put on the back-burner, but it has given me the opportunity to think about the position that writing has in my life. It’s reminded me that writing is important to me and worth some sacrifice. It’s also reminded me how privileged I am to be able to spend dedicated time writing, instead of stealing writing time from an already overflowing day, as many writers have done before me. However, it’s also prompted me to think more honestly about how I’m spending my writing time. Am I writing enough in my designated writing time? Could I be working a few more shifts a week? Am I making the financial sacrifice worth it?

These questions trouble me, but perhaps more importantly, they motivate me to work harder at my writing. I feel like I am constantly balancing money and writing, and I’ll probably be doing this for a long time. I’ve come to the conclusion that that’s okay. I don’t have to figure out my financial future (and whether it includes buying a house) all at once. There’s no rush. My job is to write more and find contentment with where I’m at in life right now, while making the most of the opportunities that are in front of me.

 

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