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. My previous post, that is Part 1, goes into her article with a little more detail. But to be clear, I will repeat that 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 added 4) a lack of respect for writing as a career choice and 5) a lack of understanding concerning the time commitment required to be a writer.
A few other points remain to be addressed.
“It’s not personal; it’s business” is the clichéd expression used in movies like You’ve Got Mail and Gross Point Blank as an explanation/justification/rationalization for the ruthless practices of business people and murderers. Editors, agents, middling associates, and lowly, graduate assistants whose job it is to find some reason to reject every proposal, novel, or short story that winds the treacherous path of submission can justify their actions in one simple little phrase: “it’s not personal; it’s business.”
And it’s true . . . for them.
For me, for many writers, it’s personal. No matter how many well-worn stories of woe are told of the ever-inflating numbers of great authorial rejections, those were not my words being rejected. Those I slip into my “Macon Leary 9 by 12 envelope crisis” or those I attach to emails and remove and reattach after rereading and reediting and rewriting and reliving for months on end, years sometimes, those are my words (Tyler Accidental Tourist). Those are my life. Into those pages I have poured lost loves, childlessness, prosperity, friendships, and all my future choices into those pages. For me, and for many writers, it’s as personal as it gets. Do you, my dear reader-writer compatriot, love rejection? If not, don’t be a writer.
Bob Cox, Doctor of Education and current resident of southern climes, states, “The solitude a writer needs to apply his craft is often misinterpreted as lonesome and all alone.” However, that interpretation is not always wrong. Nick Hornby, in his debut novel, High Fidelity, suggests a dubious connection between music and state of mind when he asks, “What came first–the music or the misery?” He explores through his protagonist the possibilities whether the music a person hears is the cause of depression or the depressed person is drawn to a certain kind of music. Likewise, a writer in need of solitude may eventually look around to find that loneliness is the resultant effect of the need for an isolated work environment. But the question must be asked: Was the loneliness an inherent part of the writer’s personality anyway? Was it not the loneliness that caused the writer to seek an audience outside the circle of friend, family, and acquaintances? Or was it the result the writing? “What came first–the music or the misery?”
Some writers like Stephen King and Anne Tyler are able to successfully manage their lives and their writing in some semblance of balance, but others—only Hemingway comes to mind at the moment—fail miserably and must choose one over the other. We can only hope it doesn’t destroy us absolutely and irredemptively.
Go, live life. Leave writing to someone else. I can do without the competition. You’ll be happier doing something else; I promise. But if you choose to stay with it, if you choose to live a writerly life, quit playing around. Do the things a writer must do to succeed: read, write, and submit.
Please feel free to list your own reasons for not being a writer, whether you’ve chosen to listen or not.