I am not a gambler. I hate the thought of risking something I have for the chance of something I don't have. I like solid. I like steady and reliable. I like certain. And now I am at the age where some of those gambles have paid off for friends. I see it, but it doesn't make me more adventurous. I can congratulate the friend on their latest success, but in my head there may be a litany of questions that make me equally sure I would not have made the gamble, even if I knew the outcome (was that career really worth your marriage? was that house really worth the debt? was that activity you signed your kid up for really worth the toll it took on family life?).
This makes it even weirder that I have been trying to write a novel for the last eighteen months. (Big deal, a novel, who doesn't try to write a novel?) What exactly am I doing this for? Do I hope that some day I'll be a Writer, a word that needs a font for dramatic flourishes? Do I want to get it published some day? Cuz fat chance. That almost never happens. Why am I gambling all this time and effort and money - yes, money, because anything you put this much effort into will cost you something eventually. What do I hope to get if I win?
I don't know. I remember reading about JK Rowling, when she was a newly divorced single mom and very poor, sitting in a coffeehouse, writing and writing the Harry Potter books and drinking coffee. I know how that coffee must have cost her. I have had periods of life, including the one I'm in, where the price of a cup of coffee was a big deal. I bet she agonized over it. I bet she wondered how she could justify spending the money at a coffeehouse just so she could write a book that no one would ever publish, when she could save a few pounds by staying home.
I am in a coffeehouse right now. Not a good one; an unimaginative chain with reliable wifi. I am here because I am working on a novel, and I cannot write at home. If I try to write at home, the girls shout their pleas for attention through the door at me. Or someone stumbles and hurts herself and I have to get up to make sure she is okay. The demands of children are too constant at home for me to focus on anything else, and I am too tired at the end of the day to write after they finally fall asleep.
So I am gambling on a cup of coffee, handing over some of our preciously pinched pennies for impersonal quiet with internet access. I have a few hours of work on something that may never pay off in any real way. I am risking family resources to do it, an amount that costs us, even if it would be negligible to other people. And I can't really explain why.