A wonderful (and hopefully inspiring!) guest post today from fantasy/sci-fi writer DK Mok, who 'grew up in libraries, immersed in lost cities and fantastic worlds, populated by quirky bandits and giant squid. She’s fond of cephalopods, androids, global politics, rugged horizons, science and technology podcasts, and she wishes someone would build a labyrinthine library garden so she can hang out there. Her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale.' Pretty cool, yeah? Here's her website.
I used to buy fish and chips from a shop near the beach, where a cheerful young man with gravity-defying hair would put together my order. One day, we got to chatting about sport, and he confided that he aspired to be a professional wrestler. He’d competed in high school, and he said that whenever he was wrestling, he felt truly alive, as though it were what he was meant to be doing.
I don’t know much about wrestling, but I know about passions – the kind that make you feel alive, but rarely pay the bills. Things like writing, art and music. I sometimes wonder what compels some people pursue their dreams, while others walk away, or shelve them for some nebulous ‘one day’.
One obvious factor is opportunity. An illiterate girl in rural Zimbabwe faces far more challenges than a middle-class girl in a country with free public education.
Another factor is choice. Some people make the valid decision that financial security, and being able to take care of the people who matter to them, are more important than pursuing an uncertain career that may never amount to more than a hobby.
However, the factor I find particularly interesting is the social environment. I once heard a great talk by writer and director Kevin Smith, in which he extols the importance of surrounding yourself with people who say ‘Why not?’ Whether you’re thinking about writing a novel, shooting a short, or entering an art competition, it can make a huge difference to have people around you who encourage your creativity, whose default attitude is ‘why not?’ rather than ‘why bother?’ The kind of people who get excited by your enthusiasm. The kind of people who fuel your dreams rather than hit the brakes.
I’m incredibly fortunate to have family and friends who’ve been supportive of my writing ambitions from the beginning, who’ve helped me to bounce back from rejections, and encouraged me to persist even when things seemed impossible. Whenever I flagged, they gave me the strength to keep dreaming, and keep working, and last week, I held a copy of my debut novel The Other Tree in my hands for the first time.
Whatever your creative interests, I encourage you to find yourself a supportive community of like-minded people, online or offline. Seek out mentors, allies, fellow travellers. The road for creative professionals is often slow, turbulent, and at times, disheartening. But I remember reading an article in which a musician lamented the number of artists who gave up, never realising how close they’d come to making it.
In my experience, the journey is more rewarding if you enjoy the process, rather than focusing solely on your progress, or sometimes lack of it. Don’t see time and effort as being wasted, as long as you’ve created something unique or interesting, or learned something from it. If something positive captures your curiosity or imagination, give it a go. If it’s something that really matters to you, then persist.
I don’t know if the man at the fish and chip shop is still working towards his dream of pro-wresting, but I wished him well. There are no guarantees that you’ll make a living from your passion, but pursuing something you love, something that makes your life more amazing and fulfilling, something that makes you feel truly alive, is still a pretty fantastic way to live.
DK Mok lives in Sydney, Australia, and writes fantasy, science fiction and urban fantasy novels and short stories. DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interest in both social justice and scientist humour. Her urban fantasy novel The Other Tree is available now (Spence City). Find more online at www.dkmok.com, on Twitter @dk_mok or on Facebook.