03 July 2004


3 July 2004

Many years ago I subscribed to a writer’s magazine.  I enjoyed receiving it for a time–  reading about what made writing work and learning various people’s tips for making it in the world of writing.  However, eventually, I found myself increasingly cranky as I finished reading the new issue.  Instead of coming away with new ideas for things to try in my own writing or new author’s whose work I should be on the lookout for, I felt depressed and discouraged.

After spending some time reflecting on what I had been reading, I noticed a pattern, more and more of the articles published were about ‘real’ writing and how you could become a ‘real’ writer.  Which seemed to imply being a published and paid writer.  The implication was that writing for fun or as a hobby was somehow demeaning or unproductive.

I freely confess that one of my fantasies is to be a published (and paid) author.  I would love to see my name on the spine of a book cover.  However, something a friend said many years ago stuck with me: Do you write because must write, or because you want to have written.  Thinking about what he said made me realize that part of me wants to ‘have written’-  to be famous or see my name in print.  I also realized that, while I love to write,  I’m not willing to put in the work necessary to become a professional writer.  From what I have seen from the outside, unless you are very lucky, it takes a lot of hard work and business sense to become a professional writer.

I’m content to be an amateur.  I enjoy writing essays for this site and I enjoy writing fiction for Tales of the Tai-Pan Universe.  I also enjoy bringing my latest story to the writer’s group I belong to, getting feedback, and trying to improve the piece and push it as far along as I can given my current level of skill.  After doing this for 15 years, my writing has definitely improved, and I would say that I can do solid journeyman’s work.

However it is unlikely that I will give up other interests to make more time for writing.   Hopefully I will continue to improve over the years– not just in the mechanics of writing, but in the quality of my ideas and my ability to execute them but I realized that there is a limit to how much time I’m willing to invest in the process.

Am I not a real writer, because I choose not to make it my full time job?  If that is true than I must not be a real mother because I am not with my son twenty-four hours a day seven days a week (and don’t even get me started on the dual standard for validation of the work done by stay-at-home moms).   When other people try to tell me that I can’t be having fun doing what I am doing, that what I am doing is not ‘real,’ what they are really saying is that I am not real.  That what I find interesting, entertaining, and even fun should not count on my life’s tally-sheet.

Now I don’t mind if folks don’t enjoy what I enjoy.  There are many things that I see people doing and I can’t imagine how they could possibly be having any fun.  However, my fear of roller coasters should not detract from someone else’s enjoyment of them, unless they force me to go on one ‘for my own good,’ in which case, they deserve what they will get (which is a panicked me screaming in real fear for the entire ride, needing a year’s worth of therapy to get over the nightmares induced by the experience, a lecture on how they are never ever to do that again, and me never ever trusting them again).

The world needs it amateurs, very few of us will ever do anything that will make us or our work famous, or even well known.  I believe that if I limit myself to doing things the ‘real’ way I will only be binding myself to the expectations of other people, and for the most part, other people who could care less about me as a person.

So I will keep writing my stories and essays and journals.  I will occasionally get out my paints and brushes and dabble in art.  I will noodle on my recorder.  I will work on those things that I find personally rewarding and it will be real to me, and that is sufficient.  And to anyone who tries to tell me differently, remember that my path is not yours.  My decisions are not yours to make.  My life is real and, more importantly, it is mine to live.

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