Employability/Disability Assessment (Instructions to screener: Check all applicable items)
writes for hours without being compelled to
calls word-processing "creative writing"
reads Middle English
asserts that the 18th century is important
believes beauty is truth
believes publication confers validation
claims his/her condition is congenital and "fun"
thinks 12 percent is fair and 15 percent is generous
feels uncertain about the line between poetry and prose
likes closed captioning
will struggle for an hour to get the "1" off manuscript page 1
thinks it would be "great" to live alone in a lighthouse for a year
I have learned to tell strangers at bus stops or family parties that I am a webmaster, or, if I really want to hear them talk, I say I’m a teacher (not a professor). “Teacher” elicits all sorts of commentary and memories, plus the “Guess What I Teach” game. Everyone always guesses right: I’m an English teacher. I fail to see what is wrong with looking like one.
But when you tell a stranger, “I’m a writer,” you'll get frosted or flummoxed by one of these:
- “A writer, eh? Ya know, my life could be a book. Whoo-ee! I’ll tell it to you and you can write it.”
- “What do you write?” (Disappointment or disapproval will follow regardless of your answer)
- “Have you ever heard of this book called (Dune, Twilight, The Lovely Bones, Ball Four)?”
- “Have you published anywhere I might have read it?”
- “So you get to sit home all day and write.”
- “My daughter writes poetry. It helps so much with her depression.”
Know-how -- in something other than creative writing -- got me the face-to-face meeting with a publisher who incidentally happened to be looking for a book ms that sounded rather like mine.
What drives my life, has always driven it, the real job beneath the job, is subverting the fate prepared for the writer in this society, and once I woke up to the reality, I took and cajoled and stole the time to write, and to finish and polish, because nobody was going to give it to me. If I was writing I would not "be there for them." And I published my own books because nobody was going to publish them for me. And I will use every tool in the box, or those that I find, to keep writing.
Back in the day there were books about this, one called Silences (1982) by Tillie Olsen, a short-story writer who completed only one slender book of fiction; her nonfiction study Silences is about the forces that keep writers from writing, about "the death of capacity," according to one reviewer. People don't read or talk about this book any more, maybe because The Feminist Press is the publisher. Now available in its 25th-anniversary edition.
From Wikipedia. I got a genuine thrill reading this, and hope you do too:When the book was first published, Whitman was fired from his job at the Department of the Interior after Secretary of the Interior James Harlan read it and said he found it very offensive.Poet John Greenleaf Whittier was said to have thrown his 1855 edition into the fire.Thomas Wentworth Higginson wrote, "It is no discredit to Walt Whitman that he wrote 'Leaves of Grass,' only that he did not burn it afterwards." Critic Rufus Wilmot Griswold reviewed Leaves of Grass in the November 10, 1855, issue of The Criterion, calling it "a mass of stupid filth" and categorized its author as a filthy free lover. Griswold also suggested, in Latin, that Whitman was guilty of "that horrible sin not to be mentioned among Christians", one of the earliest public accusations of Whitman's homosexuality. Griswold's intensely negative review almost caused the publication of the second edition to be suspended.Whitman included the full review, including the innuendo, in a later edition of Leaves of Grass.
On March 1, 1882, Boston district attorney Oliver Stevens wrote to Whitman's publisher, James R. Osgood, that Leaves of Grass constituted "obscene literature". Urged by the New England Society for the Suppression of Vice . . .Stevens demanded the removal of the poems "A Woman Waits for Me" and "To a Common Prostitute", as well as changes to "Song of Myself", "From Pent-Up Aching Rivers", "I Sing the Body Electric", "Spontaneous Me", "Native Moments", "The Dalliance of the Eagles", "By Blue Ontario’s Shore", "Unfolded Out of the Folds", "The Sleepers", and "Faces".
P.S. Whitman's title Leaves of Grass was a veiled way of saying "this is trash written by a hack or unimportant person."
I once was in conference with a famous writer. (It was E. L. Doctorow.) The first thing he asked me was, "Do you write every day?"
I said, "No. I have to work."
His manner changed. I understood that my answer had disqualified me in some fashion; that it proved I was not truly committed, and had no future in the big leagues. The rest of the conference was perfunctory.
I didn't think it was a rude question at the time. I had read, over and over, that some writers were "too lazy" or "not disciplined" if they did not get up two hours earlier in the morning or use their after-work time to write. I tried those things, for about three days each, and couldn't see straight, much less think straight.
"Do you write every day?" E. L. Doctorow is a fine writer. But that question proved he was not a teacher.
Maybe writers who do nothing else can and should write every day, but writers with responsibilities other than writing can get too burnt-out. Tired. Depleted. And if you feel that way -- you are exactly what you feel like!
The following coping idea came from a writer with a full-time job. She tried writing in the evenings, but at best put in a spotty half-hour. The results were not worth her efforts. Weekends had to be spent on housework and errands. So she told herself:
Okay, no writing Monday through Friday. Period. You are not to go near pen and paper on those days. Writing is permitted on the weekends only -- and then only if you feel like it.
The first week she rejoiced in her freedom from the mental burden of "writing every day."
By Friday night of the second week she could hardly wait to get to her computer. She did her housework and schlepping on weeknights, didn't short herself on sleep, and on Saturday and Sunday, rested, she got good chunks of time to sit down and write. She's a real writer.