Out Stealing Wisdom

I listen to podcasts obsessively. When I’m walking to get my groceries, when I’m driving anywhere. I love them so much that when I get any chance to listen, my heart lifts like a balloon. I can’t believe so much good content is free. It feels like a crime.

One of my favorites is the Longform podcast- which interviews longform journalists about their careers and craft. Last week’s was with Molly Young. I try to read one or two articles by the writer before I listen so that I get an idea of what they’re about and when I started googling Molly, I got a little jealous. She’s 26, been published in big magazines like The Believer, GQ, New York Magazine, n + 1 and on. She does all that while holding down a full time job. Also: her pieces are really fucking good.

But as soon as the podcast started, I my jealousy melted away into pure admiration and little bit of a girl crush on Molly Young. She’s smart. She’s grounded. Like all successful people, she works her tail off. She’s an inspiration.

On having a full time job in addition to freelancing:

“It allows you to not have to compromise so much. It’s exhausting to be a freelancer, to be writing things that you hate or to be writing things that you love for free. And it’s a completely powerless position to be in.”

This thought couldn’t come at a better time for me. I just accepted a full time job. Like Molly Young’s full time job, it will incorporate a lot of writing, but I won’t be writing for myself–I’ll be writing what I am told to write.

I am constantly trying to reconcile my dreams with my reality. My dream: to be writing full time for a living. My reality: I haven’t made that financially viable yet. I have only published so precious few pieces. I’m amazed by people like Molly Young: she knew what it was going to take and took editors out for beers and built up a body of work so she could pitch to big magazines.  At 26, I had this idea that I wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t know what kind of writer I wanted to be and I really had no idea what it was going to take. Those are things I am just figuring out. As a slow learner (read: clueless) and a late bloomer, I’m lucky there is so much wisdom out there ripe for the picking.

Like this article by Emma Straub. “When I was 22, I thought that I deserved success just because I wanted it, and not because I’d actually earned it. If I had sold one of those books, I would have thought that the writing life was going to be an easy one, like living inside a bouncy castle, with no sharp edges anywhere…I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in myself, and in karma, and in having patience, and in working my effing ass off.”

My friend and I were talking about mentors the other day, and she told me that her current boss is maybe the best mentor she’s ever had. “I can just tell that she doesn’t compromise anything. She has a great career, a good marriage, three kids. She knows what she wants and she makes it all happen. I just look up to her so much. I try to channel her sometimes, to approach decisions and life the way she would.”

So when I got to work on Tuesday, I am going to be channelling Molly Young. I am going to think about Farmer’s Hours, writing like a motherfucker, and what Emma said too: “It’s important to pause long enough to feel truly grateful for whatever goodness has occurred—and then, yup, get back to work.”

And what about you dear reader? Who are you channelling these days?

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