Life Writing

It’s sometimes thought that a writer’s life is easy.  What’s so difficult about scribbling things that people will pay for?  I’m absolutely certain that, like most systems, this one may be gamed.  Amazon has made it quite easy to slap together words and covers and sell them alongside literary giants.  Only time will tell those that endure.  Most writers, apart from those who achieve early success (capitalism loves nothing so much as a repeat source of money), hold down other jobs.  Many of those jobs don’t involve writing, so those with literary ambitions must carve out time from their busy lives to write.  Not only that, but to write well you have to spend a lot of time reading.  Think about your daily life—how often do you have time to curl up with a good book?  Sure, you can read on the internet, but that’s not the same thing.

I love reading about writers.  Often they had struggles to overcome and many remained obscure as writers until after they’d died.  (At least that takes some of the pressure off.)  Someone saw there was money to be made in what they left behind.  Knowing quite a few writers, I suspect most of them really wouldn’t mind that.  Recognition during your lifetime must be nice, but writers tend to have a longer view.  That’s why things are written down, and, against hope, published.  Literary ambition can be a mean dog indeed.  Especially when the lawn requires mowing again and those invasive trees need constant trimming and gee, why didn’t we buy that house with no yard?  Many writers had even greater struggles to overcome.

Image credit: George G. Rockwood, via Wikimedia Commons

When reading, I’m constantly discovering new old writers that I missed.  I didn’t grow up in a literary family.  I find them by reading other writers and, perhaps more importantly, reading about other writers.  Who influenced whom.  Many remained obscure.  Although it’s only an estimate, 2.2 million new titles are published each year.  Readers are, and always have been, a minority.  Most people don’t read for pleasure.  That makes sense, given that we haven’t evolved for that.  Survival involves working for sustenance and mowing the lawn or shoveling the walk when you’re done with work.  A clueless professional once asked me “Why don’t you hire a service?”  With what?  My royalties?  Sacrifice is an inherent part of writing.  Whether it’s the neighbors thinking you’re a trashy yard-keeper, or you boss wanting you to spend more hours on the clock, or cheating sleep night after night, a writer’s life isn’t for the fainthearted.  That’s why they inspire me.

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