I'm about a third of the way through and I have had one epiphany.
The chapter is on knowing yourself.
"I wonder how many people get sidetracked from their true calling by the fact that they have talent to excel at more than one artistic medium. This is a curse rather than a blessing. If you have only one option, you can't make a wrong choice. If you have two options, you have a fifty percent chance of being wrong."
And what if you excel at arts and science--that huge dicotomy in thinking that isn't so huge if you've lived in both worlds?
When I was small (I should rephrase that), when I first learned to write, I kept a tiny notebook (much like my daughter has just started to keep). I wrote down all sorts of rubbish. Poetry, the names of my chickens and all those tentative secret thoughts of the young and emotionally vulnerable. I can still keep a secret--some I've kept for so long I can't remember if they are even real anymore. But someone else read my notes and private thoughts and all my secrets weren't secret anymore (family, huh? Can't live with them, can't murder them in their beds).
I didn't write again until I was in my twenties.
Instead I read novels, studied art and science and could have gone in either direction. I chose science because the job opportunities seemed better (I also wanted to be a helicopter pilot, but that's a whole other story).
It took a forced break from my working environment (i.e. giving birth and motherhood) to give me the opportunity to start exploring that long abandoned drive to write fiction.
Maybe some people have it easy. Maybe some people simply know they are writers--nothing else, just writers. Unfortunately I still have nights where I go to bed wondering what the hell I'm doing with my life, why am I wasting my PhD? Like Twyla Tharp says it is a curse having so many directions to channel yourself--but it must be a very common curse because most people I know are good at more than one thing.
So despite the pressures that tear at me from inside, I'm a writer. I'm not getting distracted by how hard it is. Because, yes, it is stupid to live this way, it is stupid to pour yourself into a career that is more a lottery than a reasonable enterprize.
But I must be stupid. And a writer.