Two aspects of the writer’s life get talked about all the time:
1) How to attract a following and earn money, and 2) the hardships of the occupation.
First, let me just say that attracting a following would be awesome. I’d love to seduce people with my words and attract a following of “virtual groupies. People who “get” my message and who would buy my work, advertise on my website, and sign up for my newsletter. Readers who become loyal clients, spread my name to other people, and read everything I write all the way through, applauding and sharing every time.
And to earn money while doing it? WOW.
What writer DOESN’T want that? That’s part of the plan, after all.
But there’s a second thing that writers talk about a lot.
We commiserate about the hardships and perils of the business.
It’s hard to get clients.
The next gig is elusive.
Paychecks are erratic.
Too much work means no time for your own projects.
Finding an agent is improbable, if not impossible.
Constant rejection causes self-doubt.
Marketing yourself makes you squirm.
I get it. I’ve lamented about the difficulty of finding an agent. I’ve written about how to be positive when you’re searching for jobs. I’ve been honest about my struggle to make money doing what I love.
But this isn’t about either one of those prominent themes.
It’s about the JOY and THANKSGIVING I have for being a writer.
I learn something EVERY day.
My “job” requires that I read and write every day. (Not really a chore at all. It’s a pleasure to do that.) Reading provides me with facts. Interesting ideas. Memorable quotes.
In the last week, I collected these tidbits and preserved them in a notebook for future projects.
Gulf Coast oysters are dying. I didn’t know that! Resulting story ideas: 1) How to re-brand your business if Acme Oyster House can no longer sell oysters. 2) Six things to eat when you can’t have oysters. 3) “Farmed” oysters vs. natural oysters. 4) How chefs deal with shortages. 5) The devastation of the coastline. 6) Did the oyster KNOW it was dying, screaming inside a shell, being silently asphyxiated, gurgling with poisoned fluid? My mind is fertile ground, and all kinds of ideas take root there, planted by one potent seed.
The color black can actually get blacker. Really. It involves carbon and diamonds and lots of brainy scientists, but it’s a concept I can work with. Fashion, psychology, landscape, mysteries…the use of an ultra-black is now a possibility.
Phrases like, “Dog-pecker pink,” from “Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.” “Whatever butters your crumpets,” thank you, Jessica A, a “vocabulary as unornamental as a monkey wrench,” a la Kurt Vonnegut, and “she found work in intelligence,” from an article on novelist Mary Wesley.
An article entitled “The Jungle Prince of new Delhi” got all my fiction gears rolling. That article could be adapted into a fairy-tale-novel about a family of pretenders who makes demands on the people around them. Or a story about the effects of a mother’s madness on her children. Or a tale of two kids who grow up in a train station.
A writer learns constantly. Learning stimulates creativity. Creativity breeds curiosity.
Curiosity may kill cats, but it’s a writer’s greatest asset.
I don’t have to commute to work:
No wear and tear on my car. No worries about parking, delays, or accidents. No high insurance rates. No rising gas costs.
I don’t lose several hours a day driving. I don’t have to pay tolls and passes. I can get up late and still make it to work on time.
My surroundings are my own:
I write in a quiet office with a window overlooking trees and flowers. Sun in the late afternoon and birdsong in the morning.
I choose the music that energizes me and not what other people like. (For me, it’s mostly female folk artists…Carrie Newcomer, Vienna Tang, Cheryl Wheeler, and Lucy Kaplansky.)
I set the heat or air temperature to my body. (Warmer rather than cooler.)
I light scented candles. (My favorite is a Capri Blue Jean Candle.)
I pet my dogs. (Zoey and Ella, two adopted shelter dogs.)
I eat and drink on the job whenever I want. (If I weren’t Keto-ing, I’d be drinking Coke. Since I am, I sip Coke Zero Vanilla.)I don’t have to deal with crowds, constant chatter, or office politics.
I am NEVER bored:
Writers are always busy. When we’re not reading, researching, or actively writing, there’s marketing to do. Calls to make. Calendars to create. Invoices to send (hopefully.) Newsletters to design.
Building a business, even handcrafting it word-by-word, means I’ll never run out of things to do. If I was bored, I wouldn’t be doing it right.
My work equipment is not expensive.
My work equipment is a simple laptop. I invest in notebooks, pens, and a few office supplies, but compared to most businesses, my costs are nothing.
I have no overhead. No employees to pay. No Worker’s Compensation, Federal Withholding, or State Unemployment taxes to calculate for staff.
I can dress how I choose.
For years, I was in the public’s eye, and I had learned from my mother that appearance matters. Mother taught that clothes should always be modest, but fashionable. Age-appropriate, but trendy. She passed her love of shopping down to me, and for decades I shopped for the perfect pieces and dressed like a diva building a professional reputation.
The pressure’s off.
Now, I can go braless, wear overalls, don sweatshirts, thick socks, and slippers all day long.
Somedays, I even go without makeup.
I no longer spend money — or have an excuse to spend money — on a working wardrobe. (Most days, only my husband and my two dogs see me and they love me even in grubby jeans and baggy sweaters.)
I get to play with words every day. And that’s pure joy.
If you’ve ever suffered from burnout, hated what you were doing, had a terrible boss or an ugly co-worker, you know what it’s like to dread work.
That never happens to me anymore. I wake up at 4 a.m. “writing in my head.” I can’t wait to get to the computer and start drafting ideas.
You may know what I mean. If you’ve chosen to be a writer you probably feel it, too.
I get unadulterated pleasure in playing with words and manipulating language. Touching phrases. Rubbing ideas together. Molding motifs and tendering thoughts. Browsing books. Caressing content. Sharing the world through writing.
I’m a writer, and I’m thankful. It’s the coolest job in the world.
Melissa Gouty knows what happens when a dream is deferred. She is pursuing her passion so that she doesn’t become a stinky, crusty, dried-up-raisin-of-a-person who never tried to be a writer. She’s thankful for the chance. Follow her on Literature Lust.