I moved to San Francisco in 2004 to be a writer. Within two months of trying to pay rent, I became a management consultant. It was known as the great Heidi corporate sell out. To counterbalance corporate Heidi, Writer Heidi wrote short stories and blogged
16 years later I am still trying to negotiate my passion for the written word with my desire to advance a corporate career with a climbing salary. I am continually split down the middle, my two Heidi’s constantly arguing. Neither one has “made it.” Perhaps because I don’t fully fit either place.
Other writers are suspicious of my corporate ambitions. “You must sacrifice everything if you are going to truly be a writer. It takes full dedication. You just don’t want it bad enough.”
Executives are wary of my desire to write my innermost thoughts for the world to see.
“Be careful what you put out there. It will impede your career. Focus on PowerPoint. Let that be your creative outlet.”
I ignore both groups. While managing a career, I write fiction (my book) and I write truth (my blog).
In the early morning, before work starts, I write. I write about struggles of relationships and breakups, desire to have babies and freezing eggs, drinking too much, eating too little, and having a baby in the backseat of a car.
Then I go to work.
At first, the universe applauds me. People I’ve never heard of write me letters. They thank me for sharing my reality as it is also their reality. The man I’m dating (that I eventually have a child with) “likes” each one. Corporations pay me to speak about telling the truth in business. I feel I might just make it as a writer and be able to quit the day job. My heart swells. And then the attention stops, for three reasons.
- More people write about relationships, making my stuff replaceable
- I get writer’s block
- My life changes (I have a baby)
Crickets chirp through my blog. Have I become irrelevant?
I know writers get block and rejection is just part of the process. But it’s too hard for me. Like a panting yellow lab, I need constant positive reinforcement. Writer Heidi hates herself for being so needy. Maybe I am not cut out to be a writer. Perplexed, I stop. I turn back to my day job that’s turning into a career. I excel at PowerPoint.
I start interacting with LinkedIn more than Medium. One day I edit one word in my job title to make it sound…. more compelling. Same job. One word change. The universe applauds. People write me congrats. I get likes and thumbs up and phone calls from people I don’t know.
“I have the same job,” I tell them. “I just changed a word…why are people even noticing?”
I post a job description for a new role I’m hiring for. Within 24 hours it gets over a thousand views and shares. My career ambitions seem to be going viral.
I desperately want to write again. An idea emerges. Motherhood. Love. Conflict. I type. But tumbleweeds blow through the blog post. No one, not even my partner “likes” it. At least not in Facebook terms.
“Write for yourself, no one else,” I tell myself. Yeah right. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there…..
Maybe things have changed. Perhaps people need to work more than they need love. Or perhaps I have become more of a corporate person than a creative person. My one word change on Linked in seems to matter more than thousands of words elsewhere. Shouldn’t I just focus on what matters to others?
“But writing matters more to me.” I want to shout from my suburban rooftop. Just as long as I can pay my mortgage and wine club membership. The two Heidi’s dual again.
Through the corporate sell out sword fight, two questions emerge:
- Do I keep writing even if the universe stops listening?
- Who should I be when I grow up embrace middle age? Can I stay split? Or do I choose?
“You must learn one thing
The world was made to be free in
Give up all the other worlds
Except the one to which you belong.”
— David Whyte