…at least be a horrible warning.
To my surprise,I hear from various people that they look to me as a role model for how to be a fiction writer. As far as I’m concerned I’m not doing anything extraordinary.
I’ve seen the t-shirts that say, “Life is simple. Eat. Sleep. Fish.” Or golf, or sail, or whatever your passion is. They strike a chord with me – as I’ve said before, I’m an art hermit. Even so, I still make time for my husband, my family, my pets, my friends, my other pursuits. Someone also has to pay the phone bill, and that someone is me.
Because of that, I have to work at selling what I write. I’ve spent most of this year figuring out markets and deluging them with submissions. The amount of money I’ve made selling stories and poems is, really, minor, but it’s a start. I’ve worked very hard at grant proposals and at the works for which I submitted those proposals. That’s produced great results. Now I’m working at getting larger things published, which I hope will produce a living, even if not a luxurious one.
I don’t believe in the artistic temperament. You don’t write when you feel like writing, you write when you’ve got something to write. “I don’t feel like plumbing today” wouldn’t go over – why should “I don’t feel like writing today”?
Anyone else who sells a skill has to practice her discipline and find her clients or markets. I’m doing it in fiction writing. When you’re a lawyer or a teacher, nobody says, “Oh, look, just put that away for a few hours and help us run this silent auction”. They respect your work time. When you’re an artist, as a general rule, they don’t.
I claim my writing time, and most of the time I don’t let other things interfere with it. All through September and October – barring that visit to my dad’s when my aunt and uncle were over from Ireland – I turned down social invitations because I was writing. Maybe some people were annoyed at me about it. Too bad – I don’t interrupt their work.
This may look like a fierce commitment to art, and in part it is. It’s also a work ethic inherited from my Protestant upbringing. If I’m going to say I’m a full-time writer, then I must write. If other people don’t respect my time, then I have to protect it.
I love my work. I find it absorbing, fascinating and deeply satisfying. I have a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I finish a story or a poem, or even, as with NaNoWriMo, a given day’s quota of words.
Ideally, a life working in art should be like a life working in any other discipline. If, by treating my art like a serious job, I can be someone’s good example, so be it. I just hope I never turn into a horrible warning.