Monday, February 6, 2012

Slave to the Rhythm

By Kathleen Bradean

I know only one truly professional writer, in that he makes his entire living from writing. Every other writer I know, even the critically acclaimed, have another source of income. Many are academics. Several offer editing services. A couple are librarians. A good many, especially erotic romance writers, are stay at home moms, and I know that's work even if there's little appreciation from society or monetary reward for their 24/7 profession. Of course, everyone who works outside the home also has at home duties, so who on earth really gets to write full time?

And would I want to?

Oh sure, it sounds good, but writers know that creativity isn't a bottomless well that you can draw from forever. Even if think you know the secret to writing highly commercial novellas, as Lisabet states, I'm sure at some point you'd hit a wall, a stubbornly blank page, a dry run. And then what? Bills don't come with a "ran out of plots? this month is on us" coupon.

People don’t respect a writer's time. They don’t get that it's work. When I'm in my office, I can shut the door and put the phone on automatic rollover to voice mail and no one would dare tell me I need to be the Girl Scout cookie mom since I'm "not doing anything," but a writer or stay at home mom? It's like their time becomes community property, and oy vey, the guilt trips if they try to keep any for themselves!

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, admits that he's not sure where stories come from. He can point to a few things that stuck in his mind when he worked as a janitor in the local high school, but he can't explain the leap from that to his novel Carrie. Likewise, I'm not sure exactly what it is that links weird things together in my brain and sets my imagination to fill in the gaps. What if I shut myself off from all that by writing every day? Freaky little unrelated things have a way of flipping switches in my mind and suddenly a plot problem is "oh yeah! And that ties in with that stuff in the first chapter..." So I won't give up my day job any time soon. But that count down to retirement? That clock is ticking loud and clear. Then I'll have to get serious. Or not. Maybe I'll try being eccentric instead.


  1. Hey, Kathleen,

    I think you're already eccentric... Funny, I'm quite a bit older than you, I think, but I never imagine retiring. Probably because I can't afford to! But I suppose that if I were laid off, I would definitely have more time to spend on writing.

    Anyway, I don't think that full-time writers lock themselves away from the world. The one I know best is very much out there - she's a divorced mom with two young kids, yet she still puts out a book every few weeks. But I wouldn't want to be her. I'm part of her mailing list and I see the stress she lives under. No thank you!

  2. Lisabet - I like having a (different) job to blame. 'Gosh, yes, I should have that novel edited by now, but things have been so hectic at work.' Plus, if writing isn't your entire career, you can afford to still be a 'hobbiest' in that you can write what you want and if it doesn't sell, you haven't hurt your income.


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