What a month November has been! I didn’t do the whole, “I’m thankful for…” at the beginning of the month, because at the time I was not having a good life. I had just quit my job because I hated it. I had found a new job that I was convinced was going to challenge me (which it totally has), but my income took a hit. A massive one. (I’m a server, by the way.) In going from one job to another and doing all the training and all that, I took a hit from my tips. I wasn’t making any. And I made a jump from a casual restaurant to an upscale, fine dining, touristy-located restaurant — which is slow during this time of the year. (Honestly, what was I thinking? This is the worst time of the year to get a new job…December retail jobs, yes. October-November restaurant jobs? No.) Needless to say, it wasn’t fun. I had to crawl back to my parents and ask them for money. I felt embarrassed by that. I haven’t had to ask them for money since college.
Apart from that, I was busy forcing myself to be a writer. See, I’ve wanted to write for a very, very long time. I was seven when I decided I wanted to be a novelist. I wrote a lot during high school, and when I started college I wrote a lot there too. But then I started really getting into the heat of my major. (My entire degree is Humanities and Communications with an emphasis in Creative Writing and Social Action. It’s quite a mouthful, and it sounds much more complicated than it actually is. I usually just say “English”.) But I only had one class involving writing I enjoyed my entire college career. It was the Fiction Writing Workshop. She was the only teacher who believed in my work and encouraged me, and for that I will always thank her. Then, I had this crazy hobbit-wench teacher who tried to stop me. She got to me, I tell you. Made me question my entire talent and set my whole life goals on the backburner.
But then, I realized how much I loved haters. Because there are only two options when it comes to people who hate on you: 1) You can listen to what they say and let them control you and give them the satisfaction of knowing they got to you. Or 2) You can prove them wrong. Tell them to shove their words where the sun don’t shine and make them feel like an idiot for ever questioning you.
I went with option 2.
So I decided in August to start up the Jensen Carpenter blog. Is it perfect? No. When I finish I’m going to go back and edit it and release it to the Kindle. (I’ve chosen a different name: Omnipresent Forces and I’ve got a cover now.) I have people who read it, and with some fine-tuning I think it will be good. Anyway, after I started that, I decided I wanted to do an actual blog. Cue: The Artist Mindset.
I’ve been so thankful the last couple of months getting involved in the blogosphere. I don’t have seven hundred million followers, no, but I get to read other people’s work and other people get to read mine. It’s really riveting, and I’ve only received positive feedback (obviously someone out there has to have some negative feedback, but I just haven’t heard it yet). It’s all made me feel really good. Then the Very Inspiring Blogger Award came around about halfway through the month, and I just felt on top of the world. It was nice to hear that someone, even just one person, liked what I was doing. (Not to discredit my friends and family who read my stuff religiously, but I feel like you’re required to like it because we’re friends on a personal level. Not saying you don’t, I’m just saying my mindset tells me you’re lying. :))
In the middle of October, I found this little something called NaNoWriMo via a blog that I followed, Cristian Mihai. Here’s the post that let me learn what it was. Now, backtracking for a second, I stopped writing after I graduated college because of said evil hobbit teacher. It took me a while to go with option two. And I had been so stuck in writing what everyone else wanted me to write (because that’s how she worked. It was her topic, her choice, and that was it. No room for creativity) that I forgot what it was like to be a writer of my own. So, this NaNoWriMo idea seemed very appealing to me. Like I said earlier, I needed a challenge. That was why I quit my job. I felt like I was getting stuck in a post-college rut. It was kind of like when pregnant women get PTSD after giving birth; that was how I felt when I graduated college.
Now what am I going to do?
I hated that question. And I hated everyone asking it to me. “Oh, what’s next on your list?” (Mind you, this was when I was still working at Chili’s. Not the best job to flaunt you have a degree in.) So I took the challenge. I decided that writing a novel in a month would, if nothing else, at least get me writing. That was all I wanted. I wanted to remember what it was I loved about writing so much.
I’ve made a couple of mentions on this blog about things people tell me, i.e., making writing a job and my NaNo thoughts and such. But I noticed something completely different about my behavior this month: I was actually referring to myself as a writer. When people asked me what I did, I was a “Writer and a server”, not just a server. I was finally confident with sharing my work with people, which I never thought I could do. I was always so afraid of judgment, of negativity, of all that…Which is why option number 2 became so beneficial to me.
And guess what? I finished NaNoWriMo. With a few days to spare.
I don’t know when the last time I felt so liberated was. I’ve written a novel before, and I’m working on getting it edited (I’ve posted some of it here, at one point when I start getting a lot of comments and such I might post it for feedback), and that felt great too. I think I might have felt more liberated about this one, though. I never thought it was going to be so difficult to complete this challenge. I’m a pretty fast typer. But this was difficult.
But I had so much support, because I was finally labeling myself as a writer. People at my new job haven’t even known me for 2 months yet and they know about this book, whereas people who have known me for years didn’t know I liked to write until they saw my posts about this. (And by years I mean high school status, when I was writing just as much as I am now. I just never told anyone.)
These are some of the things I’m thankful for this month. Support. Love. Readership. Haters. Critics. All of it is so important, because I have a reason to write for all of them. I have confidence in my work now. I don’t care if people hate it or if they love it, because now I’ve learned to love it. I used to think every word I popped out was awful, and now I don’t. I write for the people who love my work, because I don’t want to let them down. I want to deliver what they want to read. I don’t care if I only have two followers. I don’t care if I have fifty followers. A hundred. A million. All I’ve ever wanted was for people to enjoy my work, and as long as I have at least one other person who does, I feel so good about myself.
As far as haters — You give me motivation. You bring me just as much joy as the people who love me, because you give me reason to prove to myself and to you that I can do this. That is where my “Artist Mindset” derived from; all the haters. Because it’s true — no one is required to love my work. As long as I enjoy what I’m doing, the rest of the world can be damned. Hate all you want, all it does it make me want this even more.
The best part of winning NaNoWriMo was the sense of accomplishment. I’ve hung the certificate you see here underneath my diploma. So now, when people ask me what I’m doing with my degree, this is what I can show them.
So, at the end of all of this, November 2012 has been one of the best months I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve never been as overwhelmed with as much positivity as I have this month. I’ve never felt so good about myself or my work. I’m so happy at this time, and it feels so good. So thank you. To everyone. Everyone who reads my work. Whether you love it or you hate it, thank you. You, dear reader, are what I’m thankful for this year.