Got to send out props to the ever-insightful and observant Max Elbaum, who wrote in a comment to my previous post that I could become a columnist if I really focused my energy on achieving that goal. Max—who is a published writer in his own right—observes that I seem to have 'other priorities' right now, which is true. But it's not just true right now, it seems to be true at every other point in my life. I just always have a lot going on, and can never be happy focusing on one thing at a time. What can I say, I'm a classic multitasker.
One of the reasons why I don't feel I could 'just' focus on my writing is that, in order for me to feel connected to the issues I care about—such as, say, racial inequality in public institutions or the erosion of a woman's right to choose how to create (or not create) her family—I need to be engaged with them on more than just an intellectual level. While interviewing folks for articles about said issues is one way to stay 'connected' to what's actually going on in people's lives 'on the ground', I have to say that I'm not sure if that would be enough for me to feel like I'm really part of a movement to create a better world.
About five years ago, my day job—which took up most of my time—used to be working for a national trade association of independent, mostly progressive/social justice-oriented, publications like The Nation and the SF Bay Guardian, etc. And although I did and still do believe that those publications are crucial parts of a broad social justice movement, I have to say that doing that work, stuck in my office most of the time, and hardly ever working with or around folks of color, low-income folks, immigrants, youth, etc., was horribly unfulfilling. The independent, progressive media in this country is still woefully white (and privileged and male, in terms of leadership), despite my old organization's efforts to make it more diverse and multicultural.
Could I make a living as a columnist/freelance writer/journalist/left-wing pundit? Possibly. Do I want to? I don't think so. At least not now, or at least not on a full-time basis. Opportunities have presented themselves, but I have to say I'm pretty happy working at an organization I love, getting to raise money for an organization that helps young people of color, mostly working class, in Oakland, in San Jose, in Fresno and Long Beach and San Diego and beyond, can have the opportunity to bring their marginalized voices to the broader public debate about their schools, about their lives. Knowing that my work directly impacts the ability of thousands of people all over the state to have a say in the public policies that affec them directly makes me feel incredibly proud, happy and fulfilled. I feel it's part of my calling to live my values through my work in this way.
Does that mean I can't be a creative or political writer, and a published one at that? Of course not. It just might mean, though, that my writing career won't take shape in a very consistent, linear way—more likely, it'll grow in fits and spurts, especially during those times when I'm lucky enough to get paid for my writing, or when my activist work on education issues and fundraising converges with my writing talents.
But that's okay with me. I have the writing of my novel and some short story projects to sustain me creatively, this blog to sustain my political writings and get my words out to a small degree in the blogosphere, and the random opportunity to do an interview or write an article for an activist rag. And that's okay for me, for now.
But who knows what the future might hold? Maybe I will follow in the foosteps of a Rodel Rodis or Emil Guillermo, with a Pinay twist. Maybe I'll become the Juan Gonzalez or Arundhati Roy of my generation. The future is full of possibilities, and I'm not ruling out any of them. All I know is that, for now, I'm perfectly happy where I am. And that's a blessing that I'm not quite ready to risk losing. Not just yet.