Q&A: Author Po Bronson

Nevertheless, I find myself spending an inordinate amount of time daydreaming on the side about making the leap from lovely, fevered writing to actual, real-life livelihood with a single wave of the magic wand.

Po Bronson

Jennifer, in the 10 years in which I wrote inside my own bubble, I didn't have children, but I had jobs and I was married. That's a big difference, but I can understand what you're describing.

My biggest concern, writer to writer, is that in indulging our passion we don't cut off those who love us from the outside world. We have a tendency to cut ourselves off from the outside world. We do this largely to stop time because we know that getting good at any art takes at least a decade, often more, in the same way that raising children takes a couple of decades.

I would argue that you're learning patience as a mother that will help you as a writer. I can't say this more emphatically: Dreams, particularly wildly improbable ones, are to be pursued, not just achieved.

Your hobby is no doubt making you a more interesting, creative and engaged person with the world. It benefits your character and probably benefits your children. It's good for you, regardless of whether you were to make a living as a writer. Keep that in mind. Embrace it for that. And if, with the benefit of patience, you also happen to make a living as a writer, that's just gravy. But again, very likely, your hobby is helping you be a more interesting and better parent to your kids.

J. Bailey from Durham, N.C.

How do you make the transition to a new career when you know what you don't want to do but you haven't figured out what you do what to do?

Po Bronson

J., you don't say so directly, but I'm going to infer and guess that you're still doing the things you know you don't want to do because you're waiting to find out what it is you do want to do.

There are some benefits of having a job while you're waiting; the economy is tough and you need to pull in an income. But when you can make a change, even one step in a direction of something you think you might be interested in, you'll step into another world in which your instincts and passions can be refined.

Of the 900 people I interviewed, very few knew what it was they wanted to do. Most had to stumble in the direction of their instincts without a clear picture, and slowly that picture became clear over 10 or 20 years. So you don't have to know where you're going to end up in order to take the first step; you don't have to have a clear vision.

Barb Casey from Miamisburg, Ohio

It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one questioning "what should I do with my life?" It's inspiring to know that people have been in the same boat and have done something about it. How did the people that you talked with make the leap? What gave them the courage?

Po Bronson

Barb, I found that just about everybody ponders this question, but making the leap means taking the question even more seriously.

Something usually happened that made people question what was really important. Often this was something very personal, where the costs of continuing what they were doing seemed impossible to suffer.

Very often people were forced into making the leap — they were laid off, they got divorced, someone they loved died, they suffered an illness. The life they used to lead no longer existed, so they had to make a change.

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