A few days ago a friend posted a link to Susannah Breslin’s “Why You Shouldn’t Be A Writer,” an article I thought ridiculous as she only expounded upon three reasons, and I could think of (though Strunk and White counsel against “so” as an intensifier) so many reasons beyond those meager three that I was immediately moved to post a few others, which, in truth, may have been part of her original work but had been deleted by an over-zealous editor, attempting to keep the reading time down to average “restroom relaxation” length. By the way, if you have a problem with long, complex sentences, this blog may not be for you as I will rarely follow the journalistic rules of sentence length; however, I will do my best to keep cohesiveness of thought in a way that compliments my self-proclaimed, precarious status as a pseudo-intellectual and allows outsiders to understand my meanings.
Breslin states that you, any generic individual who happens to read her postings at Forbes Magazine, should not be a writer because 1) Most people are not good writers and the craft is difficult to learn, 2) writing is hard work, and 3) there’s no money it. I recommend her full article at the link below as everything she says is true.
However, she leaves out a few points.
For me, the lack of understanding by friends and family that writing is my job, whether I make any money or not, tends to be the hardest part of being a writer. Following is an illustration of a typical conversation with someone I’ve known for years:
Friend: What did you do today?
Me: Wrote most of the day, did a bit of research.
Friend: I thought you told me you were going to be working today.
Me: I did. I wrote.
Friend: I thought you meant you had a job or something; I mean . . . a real job.
I have had conversations of this ilk for more years than I care to mention. When I was teaching, I taught so I could write during the summers. When I was working in sales, I did so in order to support my ink and caffeine habits. When I began my masters (and now Ph.D.) work in literature, I did this in order to expand the knowledge and abilities in my chosen field. They never understand why I would leave a full-time job with great benefits in order to work making money two days a week. They fail to recognize that I only want enough to allow me to continue to eat and write. Those who cannot see it, never will. They will not respect the work unless it becomes a best-seller (a fond fantasy). Therefore, if you want understanding and respect, find a different profession.
Along those same lines, few people have respect for a writer’s time. A fact of life is that those who are closest to you are most likely to call on you for favors. This is the case no matter your chosen profession, but in the case of a writer, friends and family believe that because no boss is standing at the door looking at her watch—my principal used to do this to late-arriving teachers—then you can drop whatever you are doing to run after their wants and needs because why? “You don’t have a real job.” Few people who are not writers understand the importance of consistency in writing. An old fashioned priming of the pump is the best analogy I can think of even though it seems a bit clichéic. Once the water has sunk down the pipe and seeped back into the ground, other water must be poured into the pump in order to get it operational again, to allow the pressure in the pipes to pull fresh water to the surface.
In the movie Finding Forrester, the mentor gets the student to begin writing by having him type out a paragraph from a story the mentor had written years before. They primed the pump. Likewise, a writer must remain consistent in his or her work in order to keep the creativity in process rather than having to restart each time he open the laptop or picks up the pen or sharpens the Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. If you are a writer, these people will come to resent all your “free time” and attempt to impose on it. They fail to understand that writers are often working more hours in a day than someone with a traditional job. Writers work more like small business owners whose very existence is tied into what he or she can get done in a day or week or year. To avoid these problems, go work the 9 to 5 and leave the writing to hardier souls.
I started this posting critical of Breslin for failing to include sufficient numbers of reasons not to be a writer, but having begun here, I am now sure that length was her limiting factor. I will add only two reasons to Breslin’s three today, but I promise to bring more to the table soon.
When posting the link to Breslin’s article, my friend asked, “What do you think of this?” I feel I must include my immediate response here:
This article speaks absolute truth. Though I think the editors likely cut two-thirds of what she wrote. She only has three reasons not to be a writer, and I think that number is pathetically low. For me, for me personally, it isn’t that I decided to be a writer, though perhaps I once thought of it that way. For me, I just couldn’t stop. I’m 53 and living in my RV in a relative’s back yard. I’m a writer.
See Breslin’s article at: