Trying to live a literary life is, I suppose, irresponsible. Especially if your efforts and writing bring basically no money. It takes considerable effort to make daily time to read and write, and so much else remains to be done. At times I feel guilty for trying. My books have all been published, for various reasons, with academic publishers. Academic publishers don’t try to sell many copies of an individual book, relying as they do on the long tail philosophy. Most academics have good paying jobs that expect research and writing in return. For the outsider, however, there are other pressing matters. The nine-to-five being the largest among them. And any social organizations you join to keep you sane and connected. Then there’s social media to take your time. And the lawn’s ready for mowing.
I’ve always believed lack of time was (is) a theological problem. I came up with that when I was an academic and had time to ponder such things. Unlike many of my colleagues, I did research and write. Now I want to move into that world where you might earn a little from all the effort. And yet, that old Protestant guilt has a way of getting its talons around you. You’re reading? Shouldn’t you be doing those minor repairs you can handle without a contractor? (Or at least think you can handle?) Or maybe shouldn’t you be looking for a job that pays enough to hire someone to do such things? And don’t you dare let that word “retirement” anywhere near your head. What are you, irresponsible?
Reading takes commitment. I try to read, on average, at least a book a week. It requires a lot of time. And a literary life includes giving back. You want to share your writing with the world. Hoping that either your fiction or nonfiction might eventually bring you some notice. That’s the plan anyway. The starving artist paradigm doesn’t feel so comfortable when you’ve got a mortgage. Still, the imagination refuses to be tamed. I’ve often said I could be content on a desert island as long as I had a huge stack of paper and never-ending supply of pens. But that’s not the reality I inhabit. That mortgage pays for a roof over my books and writing computer, always complaining it’s full. It may not be glamorous. In fact, it’s about the exact opposite of that. But it is, after all, a literary life.