I’m not exactly a spring chicken, even if you leave out the fact that I was born in the winter. That winter was fifty-eight years ago, less a few weeks, so I’ve been around the block a time or two. Heck, I remember back in the good old days when there wasn’t even a block here. We made our own blocks to go around in those days! Made ’em out of mastodons. Caught the buggers ourselves. Humph, grumph….
While I’ve been a writer a lot of my life, I haven’t worked at writing until the last three or four years. I’ve come a very long way in that time. At the business-of-writing meeting last week Pauline said, “Look at you, in Canadian Living! I want those markets, and you’ve got them, because you went after them!” There’s no reason Pauline couldn’t have those markets, too. She’s had way more practice at journalism and article writing than I have, and she has more connections. I just knew what I wanted.
I won’t say I didn’t have qualms, or that I didn’t wonder if they’d turn me down flat and laugh at me in the staff room afterwards. I had a friend in university who had worked for a publisher, and she said she’d never submit a book for publication because of the things said in the office about work that was rejected.
My big advantage is that I knew what I wanted when I was very, very young. It still amazes me that people come out of high school without any idea of what they want to do with their lives. I’m not saying every body has to have a lifelong commitment to a particular career already in place before they get that diploma. I just wonder: how can you not know what you love to do?
I see so many people who hedge and haver over their commitment to art. Anything can distract them. They can be guilted or convinced or sidetracked out of doing it, or out of trying to sell it, or even out of learning about it. My big advantage is – I can’t be.
In the rough time that happened this past fall, I never wavered from wanting to write, and, indeed, from writing. This is no particular virtue in me – it’s the way I’m made. It saves me. Art is how I express myself; maybe it’s rotten art, if I’m having a rotten time with my life, but it’s still art.
In the old cartoons, Popeye used to say “I am what I am and that’s all what I am”. He knew what he was. There may be more to me than art, but what I am is an artist, be it printmaker, potter or writer. I am what I am. I have that in common with Popeye. When you know what you are, and what you love, you can go after it. It’s an enormous advantage.