Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Writing about Writing (Wait...Have I Used That Already?)


There's a whole new state of affairs around here, and I don't know what to do about it.

You see, I've been happily writing along assuming that no one was reading a word of this and I could say any damned thing I pleased, and then suddenly, Barb Cooper blogged about one of my recent posts (in the same post where she showed us the scars from the reconstructive surgery on her foot--I'm just sure that was a coincidence. Really.) and then this lady I don't even know apparently read Barb's post and followed the link to my post...and the next thing you know it's like BLOGGING or something.

It got me thinking about terminology. "Writer" is a funny word, because it can denote both a profession and a state of being. Other professions aren't like that; I was a writer long before I was published, but I wasn't a lawyer or a teacher or even a hostess in a restaurant until I was hired into those positions. I certainly thought of myself as a writer back in the day when no one--and I mean no one--ever saw a word that I wrote. Back in the days before email and blogging, before I was making my living as a writer, I just wrote and wrote and wrote, and when I finished something I tossed it in my desk drawer (I didn't even have filing cabinets back then) and started something new. And I defined myself as a writer not because I made my living that way--I didn't even have a living to make, back in high school and then college and then law school. I thought of myself as a writer because it was who I was, how I thought, what was most natural and elemental about me.

All I really wanted to do in life was write. That's what made me a writer. I'm also a writer by profession now, and when I wrote this post about blogging being dangerous for writers, I meant (though didn't specify) writers who wanted to write professionally. It's hard for me to imagine that any writer wouldn't want to write professionally, but that's not because I have any desire for fame or fortune or to be "heard" or anything like that. It's simply because I forget that some people have the luxury of time to write WITHOUT using it to support themselves.

I've been writing since I was six; I started publishing because it was the only way I could buy myself time to write. I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that most writers are like me in the sense that there's virtually nothing they'd rather be doing than writing, and that a lot of other necessary activities in life feel like time stolen from writing. Since the realities of life required me to be doing something lucrative 50 or more hours a week (feeding my kid wasn't one of the things I was willing to sacrifice in order to find time to write), I had a choice--give up the vast majority of the time I could be writing, or make writing pay. I'm no more a writer today because I have a full time writing job and a few freelance gigs on the side than I was when I was seventeen and I was writing short stories no one has ever read to this day. But I'm MUCH more a writer today than I was when I was practicing law 60 hours a week and didn't write for months on end, and I'm much more a writer today than I was when I was teaching and training and doing admissions consulting around raising a child alone and I didn't write for months on end.

For anyone who has the luxury all the time he or she wants to write without having to make a living at it, I can't think of a reason in the world that publishing is better than not. But for anyone who, like me, has to make a choice among giving up writing, giving up sleep, or finding a way to make it pay, I stand by my original thoughts. Put your effort where the opportunity is. There will be plenty of time to blog when the money is rolling in.

1 comment:

Barb said...

You sure about that?

I'm thinking that if you're a mediocre writer, then it just doesn't matter whether you WANT to be a professional one or not. It occurs to me-- not that I'm a bitter, disillusioned and frustrated old freelancer --that in order to be a writer--even a clandestine writer, you have to have TALENT. I'm so tired of those who think if they only had time to write, they too could be published. It's a freaking lie.

Although, I do realize that getting published doesn't really equal having talent. How else could one explain The Nanny Diaries?