Once upon a time, there was a boy who lived in a far away place called…let’s just make up a name…just a random name….Bethlehem. Yeah, that’s a good one: Bethlehem. So he lived in far away “Bethlehem.” And this boy loved sandals and magic tricks and making people feel good. He liked hanging out with his twelve friends and walking on water and stuff. We should give this boy a name, right? We’ll call him Jeremy Connor. No! How about John Connor? No, too Terminator. Jimmy Coffman? Julio Constantinople? Juan Carpenter? Oh, what does it matter? You know who I’m talking about! I’m not fooling anyone! Jesus Christ! There…we’re talking about Jesus Christ.
So Jesus had this dad, right? Joseph (who wasn’t his real dad, because his real dad was an all-powerful, divine, supreme entity, GOD, who was also kind of a piece of himself, making him kind of his own real father and son in one body…why does this sound like a Darth Vader/Luke Skywalker Star Wars thing?). And Joseph wasn’t too shabby of a carpenter. He made cool deck furniture and sheds and stuff and he was always like, “Hey, Jesus! Stop spreading the good word to those lepers and moneylenders and Republicans and do something worthwhile…like carpentry.” But Jesus didn’t want to be a carpenter. He wanted to be the Son of God.
“No, dad,” said Jesus. “I want to be a demigod. I want to die for everyone’s sins and then rise from the dead and try to make people do good things. You know, savior kind of stuff.”
Joseph was not pleased. “Jesus…you know I love you as my son, who’s not my son completely, considering that I never actually touched your mother, but a son who is also kind of my father, in an abstract, hand of the creator kind of way…but anyway, like a son. And I’m telling you, give up this crazy dream. Do you know how many people want to be the savior?”
Some passing guy on a donkey raised his hand, “I want to be the savior!”
“See?” said Joseph. “See? Do you see how many people are trying to be the savior? Your odds of making it are pathetic. You’ll just end up a poor prophet. Now carpentry…wooh boy…now there’s a real career. You can raise a family on it. Here, help me with this Adirondack chair.”
“I don’t want to be a carpenter!” shouted Jesus. “I want to be the savior! I’m going off to spread the good word. I’ll show you!”
And the rest is history….
Jesus followed his dream and didn’t let anyone tell him he couldn’t do what he’d set out to do. Not Joseph, not that slimeball Judas, not those crucifix-happy Romans, and certainly not Kim Jong-un. He set out to do what he dreamed of doing, or he’d die trying…ok, so he did die. But then he rose from the dead and kept on going. How’s that for dedication?
As I write this, I am preparing to teach a whole new class of young writers in a new semester at Rowan University. An entire new class of aspiring authors has just graduated (today) with their MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from my beloved Vermont College of Fine Arts. Two of my dearest friends have tendrils deep in the publishing machine: one is in the process of querying two amazing books and is so close to landing an agent, and the other is sending in novel revisions to his editor. I have friends with books recently released and friends with books having just won awards and friends with books on the horizon. My own debut book is released this October and I have a novel and a picture book under revision, in my agent’s hands.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because these people, these writers and students, they are following their dream. They are writing. They are going after what they want and they are not letting the Josephs of the world tell them, “NO. Be a carpenter.” I am following my dream and I had an actual Joseph tell me that I was wasting my time, that there was no life to be made from pursuing the arts. I’m not breaking the bank (not yet!), no, but I am making a living writing and teaching writing, and most importantly…I am happy. I am following my dreams. You CAN pursue a life as a wordsmith and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You just have to be determined, and dedicated, and willing to work your ass off. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and changes. You have to be willing to be vulnerable and have patience and somehow have the mental fortitude of Professor Xavier in the face of rejection and revision and negative feedback. Writing is not easy. Not at all. It’s a lot of work…like juggling 17 living octopus while on a fiery unicycle and someone is shooting watermelons out of a cannon at you kind of work. But it’s worth it….oh, so worth it (if, of course, that is your dream). Ani Difranco may have said it best when she said, “Art is why I get up in the morning.” Well, if that’s how you feel about your writing, then GET AFTER IT! Don’t worry about the odds and the money and the alternatives. Pursue your craft and let it take you where you need to be.
So, from THIS Joseph (who is a writer and NOT a carpenter), I say: “Go forth and be what you want to be. Follow your dream. Pursue your passion. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t. Don’t settle for someone else’s dream/life.”
WRITE YOUR OWN FUTURE