To Follow Your Dream or Not?

For all those people who’ve grappled with the question of whether to quit their full-time job (i.e. a steady paycheque) and pursue their dream career (i.e. unsteady income), you might want to read an article in today’s Wall Street Journal. There’s a piece about David Ebershoff, the former Random House editor and executive who quit his posh job two weeks ago to become a full-time writer.

To recap: Mr. Ebershoff quit his position as Random House vice president and executive editor. During his time there, he edited literary giants such as Norman Mailer. He was more recently the American editor for David Mitchell. He also has the distinction of editing several (as in more than two!) Pulitzer Prize-winning books, one of which I really enjoyed about North Korea by Adam Johnson called The Orphan Master’s Son.

So why would someone leave this kind of fame, fortune and respect behind him? Obviously it’s not the stellar royalties authors make these days on physical books. Like Andy Weir, David Ebershoff balanced work (he’s also been teaching writing courses at Columbia and NYU) with his love of writing over the years. At some point, one had to give way to the other. Nobody can balance a full-time job with a writing career and expect to stay sane (or at least moderately engaged socially with other human beings).

I applaud David and his strength/bravery/foolishness/romantic nature to follow his passion. Or, as my friend Maria A. likes to say, Follow your bliss! I’ve gotten to know David a little over the last year or so and he strikes me as a bright, intelligent person who has too many literary-related gifts for one person. I also made this fateful decision in 2004 when I gave up a cush lecturing job at a respectable university to pursue writing as a full-time gig. I know how scary it can be and can only hope that David’s journey is as soul-affirming and eye-opening as my own has proven so far.

Even with his hectic schedule over the last few years, David managed to publish two novels (The 19th Wife and Pasadena) and a collection of short stories (The Rose City). His latest novel, The Danish Girl, has recently been made into a major motion picture. Click here to watch the trailer.

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