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Write on Wednesday – um, just a wee bit late

August 11, 2008

Do you consider yourself a writer? Do you think blogging is “real writing?” What does it take to be a “real writer”?

My pencil can. I love mechanical pencils. If anyone asks you for ideas for my birthday, tell them pencils. One can never have too many pencils (or those lovely little tubes of lead).

Becca has come up with another great prompt on Write on Wednesday. These questions prodded me to think about something that has been niggling in a little corner of my brain for the past few months. First, I have to share with you this great quote by George Simenon,

Writing is considered a profession, and I don’t think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don’t think an artist can ever be happy.

That just cracks me up. I can’t imagine that he was really so unhappy. His oeuvre includes about 200 novels, over 150 novellas, several autobiographical works, numerous articles, and large number of pulp novels written under more than two dozen pseudonyms. I won’t begin to name and number the women he had affairs with. But the point of the quote is taken. Writing as a profession can be challenging.

My humble opinion is: if you write on a regular basis, you are a writer. I write regularly – just about every day, but when someone asks me what “I do,” I say I am a mentor. That takes more of my time, and I am paid for it, so there it is. Some people who know me call me a writer, which feels very strange, but nice. I feel a bit shy about it, like I am claiming something that doesn’t really belong to me. I am assuming others think that in order for one to be called a writer, you must be published (paid to write). But that is my assumption. I haven’t asked any of those people their opinion of what makes a real writer. So yes, I am a real writer, and no, I am not a real writer.

I suppose I could say writing is my part time job. I do take writing very seriously, even when I am simply blogging. Which brings up the next question – is blogging real writing? Certainly. Writing is writing is writing. When you make something up and put it into written words, it is writing. (Maybe the profession of writing needs to be qualified: you are either a professional writer, or an amateur writer. I don’t think I will get into that discussion.)

I enjoy blogging. It fulfills two needs for me:

  • It is good practice. I try to do a decent job, not just fling words out and post.
  • I get feedback from other writers and readers, which encourages me to keep writing. Though the encouragement is nice, I don’t need it to keep writing; I would write, regardless.

This led me to think of writers one hundred or two hundred years ago. We know the ones who became famous, but were there people like me? People who wrote, even though they were unpublished? Did anyone have the luxury of the free time to write, while being paid to do whatever their day job was, to support themselves? I read a story about a woman named Frances Burney, who lived in the mid to late 18th century. She was part of the Blue Stockings Society of England; a society of privileged women with an interest in education that got together to discuss literature and art. They also invited educated men to join them. Though Frances was a prolific writer, little of her work was published during her lifetime. Much of Frances’ work, including letters, was published after her death in 1805. One letter she wrote to her husband included a description of the society:

The female club I told you of is removed from its headquarters, as Lady Pembroke objected to a tavern. It meets, therefore, for the present, in certain rooms of Almack’s, who, for another year, is to provide a private house. It is much the subject of conversation… The first fourteen, who imagined and planned it, settled its rules… As yet there are seventy-five members chosen; the whole number is to be two hundred. The ladies nominate and choose the gentlemen, and vice versa; so that no lady can exclude another lady, or gentleman a gentleman! The Duchess of Bedford was at first black-balled, but is since admitted, as also are the Duchesses of Marlborough and Grafton. Lady Hertford wrote to beg admittance and has obtained it. Lady Holderness, Lady Rochford, and Lady Harrington are black-balled, as is Lord March and one or two more who think themselves pretty gentlemen du premier ordre, but it is plain the ladies are not of their opinion

What women had to go through to discuss a good book! Anyway, not being published didn’t stop Frances from writing.

Stephen Crane was a writer whom every college sophomore has read. Crane’s first novel, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, was written in 1893, when he was just twenty-one. The publishers, who considered its realism too “ugly”, turned down the manuscript. With money borrowed from his brother, Crane had the book printed at his own expense. Wow. Publish America in 1893? I had no idea.

I believe I have answered my question that I tacked on to Becca’s question. Yes, writers have been writing, published and published, for a long time. What all of this has really made me think about, is why do I have this driving desire to be published?

I tossed and turned for a few nights. This is a big question and is a part of “where is my life going right now?” I would like to be a published writer because if you are published, you get paid, and if you are paid, it is your job, and if it is your job, you don’t have to do another job. Sitting and writing all day is heavenly. I can do that. Day after day after day. Into the night. I don’t get sick of it. To get paid to do something you love. Wow. I have the dedication to writing part down. Now all I have to organize is the paid part.

There is an hysterical article written by Robert Crane on Helium, titled Tips for the Unpublished Writer. If you want a few good laughs, please read it.

I managed to get the garden fairly well organized before my mother and sister arrived on Sunday morning. They thought it was lovely (whew). The roses are on their second round of bloom. I have to squish the nasty Japanese Beetles every morning before they devour the blossoms, however. I found some good advice for getting rid of them without using chemicals, here. (I can’t get that link to work, so here is the address:

The soap water in the pan, knocking them in trick, worked great.)

Below are three antique roses whose names I forget. They are incredibly fragrant, cabbage style blooms.

I hope you have a lovely week

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2008 8:10 pm

    I started my blog adventure as an outlet to sell some of my art keepsake boxes. However, I found that I really enjoy the writing and have yet to get my little art shop open. Sigh. I suppose I am a writer, as I love to play with words and find creative ways in which to communicate. But as a interior designer, I’ve never felt the pressure of earning my living through my writing, and somehow that seems more professional to me. I am a closet writer with a blog. How’s that?

    Your roses are beautiful!

  2. August 11, 2008 8:16 pm

    I don’t know what the keepsake boxes look like, Pamela, but I hope you stick with the blogging. Your writing is wonderful, and it resonates in a very lovely, gentle, kind of way with my own thoughts and feelings. Please continue to hang out in that closet!
    So, which hat are you wearing today?

  3. August 11, 2008 9:21 pm

    I would imagine that quote is somewhat tongue-in-cheek or at least is in a greater context of the idea that people shouldn’t have a romantic idea of getting into writing or other art as a way to be wildly successful and have a lot of fame and fortune as more often than not that does not occur.

    I’ve never really agreed with the idea that a great novel or a great piece of art has to be born out of some dark place or out of pain. I think we all deal with our fair share of that just being human and yet I do believe that relatively contented, happy people can create literature or art that is wonderful and inspires others.

    I agree with your definition of a writer. I believe that if someone is actually taking the time to devote to it, who is making the effort to not just write when they ‘feel like it’ is indeed a writer. I’m sure there are as many different definitions for this as there are writers out there, but in the end if someone calls themselves a writer I would hope that they are avoiding potentially embarrassing situations by actually writing something once in awhile. 🙂

    As for your other thoughts, I do believe there are probably many writers from long ago that didn’t become famous, for one reason or another, who probably produced some wonderful, meaningful work but that the stars just didn’t align for them. I love that several small press publishers are going back and reproducing little known works from the past. I truly believe there are undiscovered or little known gems out there and it is great to see effort being made to find them.

  4. August 13, 2008 5:10 am

    I think the quote was more of a crybaby “don’t you feel sorry for me?”…. but your interpretation is so graciously more generous.

    I am sure we have life easier than the majority of folks living 100 or 200 years ago. The middle class of today has free time that was non-existant back then, so we can induldge our urge to create. And it is sad to think of the people who did follow the urge and used precious time not filled with work work work – and their thoughts are lost to us now because their efforts are moldering in attics. sigh
    But yes, the results of the small press publishers are great, thank goodness.

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