When I go to a literary event, I first have to gather my bearings to find a familiar face. I keep to myself most days and social media is my connection to networking and “being out there.” I’m maybe 90% more introverted than extroverted in person, so seeing a familiar face in a crowd I feel comfortable with helps. After a bit of catching up with a few people, I will try to meet a couple of more folks, not just for networking, but mainly because book people and fellow readers are awesome. We share in our love books and it’s amazing that we have this world of art that many try to stamp as dead, but damn it, it’s still thriving.
Although I wonder, at most events, about the starving writers, the blocked writers, the struggling writers, the keep to themselves writers and the many other writers that we don’t really talk about. They might come to these events and they might not. They work a full day and might be too exhausted, but they still stay up and work on their manuscripts. They have been unable to put words to paper because trauma or sickness or anxiety prevents them, but sometimes a thought comes out and they journal about it hoping one day their story will be heard. They work a factory job or take care of their kids all day and feel out of place, but they still go to the open mic or the poetry slam. They write and submit, apply for grants and prizes, but don’t get their chance because the literary world is big and racism, sexism, and ageism still exists big time in it. Writing and books are just as important to the types of people I’ve mentioned because they are writers. Some of them published and some of them have not. Some of them are you and some of them are me and maybe we’re all a combination of many.
I write this because as writers we tend to glamourize or romanticize what we do and that’s most of what the world sees. The parties and launches are wonderful, but I do enjoy hearing about lives outside of writing; people’s work days and their boring commutes. I want to ask if behind it all, you’re ok. I’m very confessional by nature and I don’t expect others to be. It’s just interesting to know I’m not alone in the struggle to have a life and still be a writer, or rather to have a life and just be me.
Not all of us are professors or can afford the money or the time for an MFA (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us have the inside track in publishing and know the ins and outs of it (although there are struggles there too). Not all of us are adept at schmoozing (maybe they’ve taken a course?). Yet that’s how the media portrays writers and that’s how the writing world is seen: a bunch of people who dedicate themselves to writing and made it despite the odds. Maybe one percent of those out there have, but most of us have lives outside of that media portrayed world.
I’m a writer, but I’m a single mother of two kids. I combat daily with my own issues, but I live comfortably because of alimony and I have time to write. Although now I have a goal and ambition to be independent. It’s imperative for me as a feminist, and as an example to my daughter to show her that we can create and make a life for ourselves without depending on others financially. I freelance and am out looking for steady work, but my non-writing resume is a history of blue collar factory jobs where computers have made them obsolete, and outdated advertising desk jobs from fifteen years ago before my children were born. I have a supportive family and a close relationship with my children’s father, but I can’t lean on them anymore. I have to stand on my own eventually and it’s hard. I do recognize that I have a roof over my head and food in the pantry because of others. Aiming to change that is the difficult and overwhelming part. I fear writer’s block because of it. I fear not having time to write for myself. I fear my anxiety and cycling bouts of depression will hinder any progress I have made in my writing career.
I am fond of saying that if you work hard at something, things will manifest for you. They might be the things you were looking for, but things will happen. For many writers, they can’t get to the part of just “work” because they’re busy trying to stay afloat. Launch party? Hell, some people have to wake up at 5am for their daily commute.
I’m glad that there are spaces like Sachiko Murakami’s The Hardest Thing About Being a Writer and Daniel Zomparelli and Dina DelBuchia’s Can’t Lit. These are places where writers can be human. I don’t feel alone when I read or listen to these sites or interviews like them. I’m not a big fan of pretension, name dropping, and ego. I like emotion, substance, and am comforted by the idea that in every writer there is a fallibility and vulnerability where stories and poetries are born. Get to know the people that combat the world while still writing.
I’m just bored by the David Foster Wallace or Wonder Boys portrayals of writers.
I’m not saying we should end the glamorization of writing, but rather that when we’re out there doing our thing, we should consider the world we write about, the lives write about, and the topics we write about when we write about writing. Addressing personal concerns and things that hit close to home for us individually is easier for some and harder for others, but it’s good to understand we all live in a world where we have to make compromises to survive. We find our niche, we build our own moulds, and yeah, we’re writers. But writers must feed, cloth, and house ourselves.
If more people knew that we work, we struggle, they’d buy more books from authors, they’d help small presses more (for these are the places a lot of the disenfranchised authors get their chances in), and they’d be more willing to take us seriously when we say that writing is a job, so please pay us. BUY OUR BOOKS. PAY WELL FOR YOUR CREATIVE CONTENT. Pay and pay writers well. It’s work.
I love going to book launches and readings because it’s inspiring to see the amount of folk that still go out to these things. I get huge stage fright before a reading because why would anyone want to hear my poetry? It’s a privilege to be able to get up there and have an audience for it. And I’m paid to do it nowadays. That’s huge. I get paid to write AND get paid to read my poetry…to people even!
I’m a nobody like the many nobodies out there. I hope to forever be a nobody like the many nobodies out there because the only glamour I enjoy from writing is being able to read my words. The rest is work and some of it is fun, I admit, but the rest is work.