Sure, I have a day job. Most writers have to keep a day job. It’s a long, difficult road to making a living off of a writing career. But that’s another post entirely. If someone were to ask me what I do, I’d say that I work in a pharmacy. But if you were to ask me what I was, the first thing out of my mouth would be, “I’m a writer.”
Why a writer? I’m not published – unless you count a sad POD first novel that I wouldn’t show to my own grandmother. I don’t even get to sit at my laptop and live inside my fantasy worlds for hours at a time. I have a day job and a family to support. I don’t write all the time or even very consistently most days. Very often, I don’t feel much like a writer at all.
So why do my instincts shout that I am, for better or for worse, a writer first and foremost above almost all else?
Well, I’ve been writing ever since I could remember. My very first story was about a young monster who got in trouble with his parents for not being scary enough. I think I still have it lying around somewhere. More than that, something in the written word just calls to me. Or maybe it’s just that I’ve had stories in my head so long that my choice is to either write them down or consider myself insane.
When I was a teenager, I ran across this quote from R.M. Rilke (which is not the exact quote I ran across but conveys the meaning; and this is the original statement anyway):
“Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity”.
It changed my world. Here, finally, was a definition I could fit into. I had never been the outgoing, endearing school girl that I so admired as a child. I couldn’t be the smartest, or the fastest, or the prettiest. I daydreamed. That is what I did. I immersed myself in other people’s stories and tried to use those worlds to make sense of the one I was in. When they didn’t quite fit, I started writing them myself. Now, I finally had a word for what I was: a writer.
It’s been many years since that youthful hope, however. I’ve nearly given up on the whole thing at least a dozen times over the years. The doubts plague you. Am I good enough? Do I have anything significant to say? Can I touch the hearts and minds of my readers the way that the books I’ve read did for me? Then each time I realize that it doesn’t matter, because I simply can’t not write. It’s no more a choice for me than breathing. When I don’t write, I become a zombie stumbling through my daily routines. Life loses it’s luster and I forget the reason I get up in the mornings. It’s a spark of happiness so small that I don’t even realize it’s there until I’ve let it die. And it’s hard, so hard, to get the flame burning again.
But what choice do I have? I’m a writer, dammit. It’s what I am.
I still have a lot to learn. Thankfully, the internet is a useful tool for this. Later, I’ll post for you some of the best writer’s resources I’ve found on the web. For now, I’ll leave with some more modern and equally important advice from CE Murphy. “[I]f I could be content, even happy, doing something that didn’t pile up the rejection letters, that didn’t require spending years of my life at a keyboard when I could be doing something else, if I could get ten or twenty or thirty rejection letters and say, ‘No, this isn’t worth it,’ then it wasn’t worth it. I would be happier doing something else. If I could walk away from writing, I should, because it would make for an easier and more comfortable life.”
So if you can walk away, do it. A writer’s life isn’t glamorous. It isn’t fame. It’s sitting alone in front of a keyboard, realizing you’ve not done the dishes in three days and you haven’t showered in almost as long. It’s neglecting your real-life friends while the ones in your head clamor to be released. It’s being rejected by agents, editors, and eventually readers – and that’s the best case scenario. There’s a darn good chance that you’ll never get past the agent stage.
But… If you’re like me – if you’re going to write anyway, regardless of what anyone says… Well, then welcome to the club.