I'm happier now as a writer than I've ever been. But I wish I'd gotten focused on this novel business at a younger age. What would have provided a focus sooner? I knew that a broad education was valuable. But when I was young, I needed something more concrete. Something that, for me, would have explained the dichotomy between common knowledge and uncommon knowledge.
It would have helped if someone I respected had said something like, "You can't just hang out and hope a good life or a good job comes along. It is best to plan. And the best plan is to look at all the things you might like to do, and then study the ones that give you uncommon knowledge."
Perhaps that is obvious. But the obvious often escapes me.
The advice would have included examples:
"If you become very good at skiing (a somewhat common skill), you can teach it. But you won't be able to charge much or find many takers because tons of people are good skiers. In contrast, if you become very good at brain surgery (an uncommon skill), you can explore some of the most interesting stuff known to man. And you will be in high demand because of the rarity of your knowledge. A bonus is that you'll likely get wealthy in the process."
"If you get very good at waiting tables or tending bar (a somewhat common skill), you can always find a job, which, unfortunately, often doesn't pay well. But if you get very good at being a professional chef (an uncommon skill), you might be able to start your own successful restaurant."
"If you spend a great deal of time watching TV, you'll learn the latest TV trivia and celebrity gossip (very common knowledge), and you will have spent much of your life acquiring knowledge that has almost no value. But if you learn how to write and/or produce those TV shows (uncommon knowledge), you will be able to work in the television field creating the content that so many millions enjoy.
A corollary to creating TV content would be that if you know how to write novels (less common knowledge), you can tell stories about most anything you like and maybe earn a living from it as well and work on your own terms and your own schedule and rarely have to get on the freeway during rush hour."
If only someone I respected had told me that at 18. Oh, well, we figure these things out in time...