Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There Is No Second Prize

What do you do?  It's a common question for someone to ask what your work is.  In a way it's how western society defines people, how we box and package them. Let me say right now that it's one that has always annoyed me.  I'm so much more than what I do. 

But that's not reality so onward to the point.  Why is it so hard to say I am a writer?

The question arose quite literally on a plane ride.  When a discussion with a complete stranger spiraled into a question regarding employment.  I ventured to say that I was a writer.  It was a trial balloon and led to a discussion of my two published novels.  But what made the whole conversation thought provoking, at least for me, was when she asked me if I could make a living at it.

What kind of question is that?  Obviously you can - check out the Bestseller List, a living and a darn fine one at that.  Can everyone make that kind of living?  Probably not.  Was the question, am I?  Now that's getting personal.

Of course there's a reason for everything and her question soon led to her reasoning, some day she was going to write a book.  Not now, tomorrow or even next week, just some day.  Like writing a book was like walking to the local store - barring a disability of some kind anyone could do it.  I chugged back any snide comments along with an initial reaction to wrap one of my bookmarks around her well-meaning neck.  But I'm nicer than that, after all I write romance.  I smile and give her a bookmark.  Better than that I encourage her in her future, and now non-existent career.  Of course any one can do it, it's just a matter of setting pen to paper.  I think I may have ground a filling right off my tooth on landing but that's another story.

So what does it take to be a writer?  I think if you're tripping over the dog and scalding yourself with coffee in the early morning hours trying to get one more page completed before the world wakes up and demands attention; if you're weeping over the latest rejection letter or if you're holding your royalty cheque in your hand, no matter how tiny - you're a player who's earned the title, Writer. Your writing career is as real as your commitment to it, whether that career functions as one job or two.  Now why is it so darn hard to say it?  Isn't that kind of like asking whether your reflection in the mirror is real or fake?  Of course your mirror image is real, just as real as the fact that you write.  Eureka - writer!

To get branded as a writer it means writing in the midst of two "wonderful" things - rejection and waiting in no particular order.   Rejection, even though there's been lots of good stuff these last few years including publication, writing that word makes me want to snarl and spit.  Fortunately, my hubbie has learned to ignore me and the dog has taken my reaction to be a sign to bring out one of his larger stuffed animals and try to have his way with it.  Let's not even go into what this might mean.

But I'm off course - If you want to read more of all the bad stuff that makes a "real" writer I have the blog for you.  Just remember that this particular visit will dump you right out of the Disneyland lingo here and into the real world with a bang that may hurt some of your sensibilities - be brave, venture forth to Terribleminds.

Time to get real, there is no second prize - do they pay you for what you love best? And if not, why not?


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