What would you call it if one chose to work hard, absorb much abuse, grow old at a young age, be disconnected from the society and not gain a penny? No, not insanity, it is called a writer’s life, and I for one, chose that over a lucrative job that had gained me moderate respect in the community.
I figured the best time to break the news to my husband would be at breakfast, long before the day’s events had robbed us of our patience and while we enjoyed the first cup of coffee together.
“I’ve put my practice up for sale,” I said and poured him more coffee before adding, “As of next week, I shall follow my dream and do nothing else but write.”
His initial shock soon gave way to a look of deep concern as if he thought his wife of twenty-five years had lost her mind. A doctor, he knew how mid-life hormones could destroy one’s life, but it was clear that he had not prepared for it to happened so close to home, not to mention at home.
“What prompted this?” he finally said. “There has to be another reason. I mean, it’s great to have a dream, but you don’t give up your career, or your whole life for a hobby, do you?”
Having practiced for this, I felt ready to charge, armed with all sorts of reasons to defend my indescribable passion for the written word, but all that came out was, “Writing is my life.”
And so it was that the woman who had spent a lifetime building the wrong castle for the wrong reasons gave it all up and set foot on a path that may not lead to anywhere in particular, but provides the best scenery.
For over three years, I took down stacks of paper from the shelf and rewrote what I had written over a lifetime, and then I re-rewrote them. Somewhere between the writer’s conferences, a variety of workshops and the read-aloud nights my cookbooks were lost and a layer of dust found its way around our home. While I expanded my vocabulary to rephrase the declaration that there would be no dinner, my husband learned to boil hot dogs and he made large bowls of salad for us. After a short while, my friends knew that if I did not pick up the phone, it could only be blamed on a new inspiration that had to be put to words that instant. My children learned that an earthquake, a fire, or any such minor incidents weren’t reason enough to interrupt the tapping of my computer keyboard. I became so fixated to my small desk, the dog sometimes looked as if he wanted to take me out for a walk. When five years of this full-time occupation went by and I continued to be unemployed, not to mention not making a dime, people started to show early signs of concern.
“Why don’t you do something about the books yourself?” my best friend said. “I hear Amazon now lists self-published books and there are a few stores that take them, too.”
I was impressed that she had done some homework, but did not want to discuss the subject, so I dismissed the idea saying I wasn’t ready for that yet.
The following week, another friend called. “The girls are all going to lunch at Bernini’s café,” she said. “If you’d like to go, I can pick you up at twelve.”
“Thank you,” I said – wishing I had not picked up the phone. “But I have a deadline for a new article.”
In the silence that followed, the questions she did not ask hung in the air: Which article? What deadline? We both knew I only wrote because I wanted to, but what she didn’t know was that my life, short as it may be, had started to show me its magnificent width.
I look out the window and know soon it will be daybreak. With everyone asleep, the world is quiet, except for the clicking of alphabet under my fingers in the tiny cubicle I call my office. The IM panel on my computer screen shows the names of a couple of other lonely writer friends, but I’m not even sure if they have not left the computer on and gone to bed.
And so is the life of a writer – employed or otherwise – and the lives of those who help to put together magazines, newspapers and books. Readers seldom think of how much goes into the printed matter they consider a pastime, use for packaging, or just discard. All the same, once in a while a writer receives the kind of feedback that makes the journey worth the pain. A simple photograph, a passage in a story or a poem can touch someone enough to offer a nice comment, a pat in the back, and just enough fuel to go on.
If it weren’t for readers, not only would there be no books, I doubt if writers would survive. As you enjoy the stroll through a favorite magazine, offer your support, take the time to let them know how much you appreciate the hard work they put in. Then perhaps “what goes around” will indeed come around and you may someday enjoy the reflection of your own positive energy in the upcoming issues.
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