"What do you plan to do with your one, wild, precious life?" -Mary Oliver

Saturday, December 17, 2011

So You Say You're A Writer?

I don’t like these monotonous gray skies, these decrepit clouds that can’t even deliver a good snowfall, these bleak windswept nights that encircle the crumbling brick of an unfinished house, cold as bare shoulders in an unheated room. Monotony, how wicked is your winter. I don’t like it when someone asks, “What did you do all day?” Knowing full well that I whittled the hours away putting thoughts into words and writing them down.

If I were braver, I would say, “I wrote. That’s all I did."

Writing warms this winter floor and turns monotonous gray skies blue. So, no, I didn’t bake anything or clean anything or visit the sick or feed the poor. Why should any of those things be more admirable than writing? More acceptable? Or is this just a misconception that rests in me? I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to pat myself on the back for any of those things. So why do I cower behind my written words like a plagiarist? There isn’t anything more painstaking than writing, nothing that takes more time, perseverance, memory, and intellect.

Our society measures success by money. Simple truth. So as a writer, most of us live outside the circle of society. If we are to live off our writing, we live outside the needs of society. We work at odd jobs that take as little of our time as possible yet keep us off the dole. We read meters and deliver newspapers and survive dog bites. We wait tables and stock shelves and work for temp agencies. We turn down full time jobs and full time money so we have time to write. We turn down the heat and buy second hand. We live on the fringe and that takes courage. Courage to stand up and say "I'm a writer." It's more than just putting writer as your occupation on your income tax return (though that is very gratifying). It’s putting yourself out there, facing rejection and the inevitable questions, because let’s face it, most people don't know the six questions not to ask a writer.

So they ask.

I have questions of my own. The Protestor was named Time's Person Of The Year, and the Occupy Wall Street movement is on my mind. As I browsed my local bookstore, I kept seeing dumpsters full of books. Would we throw away our books if ordered to do so? Stand idly by and let someone else do it? Would we raise a hand to the oncoming tank? Would we object to police drones flying overhead? If it all comes down around us tomorrow, would we still have the courage to write?

10 comments:

rebecca said...

Writing is the most loneliest profession there is; it's just you and your thoughts and words. Writers have no assistants (well, ok, M Webster and Thesaurus are lifelong volunteers), they don't have colleagues on which they can bounce off ideas or bitch and complain to about the injustices and inequalities of work, and they have no bosses, benefits, paid holidays/vacation/sick days and bonuses. It's just you and it might as well be just you in a little cabin away from all civilization for that matter. In a room full of people, writers have the focus, intellect, creativity, perseverance, love, passion, blinding desire to create something out of nothing, to give life to a newborn idea, to be the voice of the voiceless masses, to write the words that inspire, promote thought, touch nerves, empower, bring sentiment, explain and express. So next time someone asks what you do, state it proudlly and if looks of derision come your way because of your statement, break it down for them and leave the ignorant, talentless, and yes, jealous asses speechless.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Rebecca,
I left that out: first and foremost, it's the loneliest of occupations. I couldn't have said it better. You completed my thoughts. I think the attraction of being alone, that cabin in the rough, is why the subsequent marketing is such a jolt. Thank you for this supportive addendum to my post. The next time someone asks, I'm taking your advice. I think people are always curious, I don't know about jealous. Thank you.

Frances Garrood said...

Yvonne, the only one of those questions I get asked (and this, all the time) is "what's your novel about?", which is impossible to answer, as everyone knows. ( A bit like asking "what's your life/dog,car about..." )

Yvonne Osborne said...

Frances,
Right! And talking about it will jinx it, especially with that first rough draft. Thanks for commenting!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

If anything anyone says online will live forever perhaps the same will be true for all books that are digitized. Maybe, this time, no one can kill the words with dumpsters and bonfires.
But even if they found a way to destroy books, I think writers will always make new, powerful words. One way or another.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Tricia,
I believe that too. Thank you!

Anthony Duce said...

I once was going to be a writer, full time, when I was young. I was once going to be an artist full time, when I was young. Instead I became an architect. I drew drawings of buildings, and wrote lots of specifications and descriptions for the design and construction of these buildings and other related stuff. After writing the specifications for a building to be built, I would hold up the pages and announce my achievement, finishing another great work in fiction, the contractors would mostly ignore. And for this I was eventually paid very well. All the time for over thirty five years I told those who would listen that I really wanted to be an artist and also write stories about whatever I imagined when I was young. Having retired a few years ago, gave me the time to do what I had always wanted to do. The drawing and painting I have been able to sit down and do almost anytime. Some times I’m even paid for all the fun I’m having. But the writing is so much harder, so much more difficult to do. I write everyday, but I have to discipline myself to do so. And I usually end up thinking and sometimes writing about what I want to draw and paint, when the time committed to punching out words onto this screen is up for the day. I will draw and paint into the night. With writing, it is so much harder to do.
I can say I am an artist now. It’s so much easier for me to do. I can say I write. But I can’t say I am a writer yet, (unless specifications count)☺
Maybe my desire to write is tied to how much I love to read what great writers write, like what you just wrote above. I so enjoyed.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Tony,
You have a rich, storied, history! Thank you so much for sharing your artist's journey. See, I couldn't even draw a stick figure, so what you and other artists do amazes me. You didn't waste time and I envy that. I didn't start writing in earnest until about ten years ago. Sigh. You do a nice job of putting words to your paintings. Not many would even try. I once had a teacher who told that that all writing is good. I liked that. Thanks for the encouraging words.

Ed Pilolla said...

thanks for the reminders that writers operate out of the mainstream. there is a price to be paid for such living, especially when one takes it awful seriously.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Ed,
Thanks. It does take a toll, but if we don't take ourselves seriously, who else will?