I have been writing this column, The Writer’s Life, for about two and a half years. Over that time topics have included managing time, writing dreams, holding on to the passion, risks, sacrifice and managing time. (That one is big.) I chose these topics because a) they are pertinent and important to writers or b) because I was in a time crunch and they were the first things I could think of to write about with some aptitude. I will assure you however, that even if I was writing with the pressure of a deadline at my back, all the topics are close to my heart and ones which I felt important discuss in 500 words or so with the She Writes community of writers.
But, if you think about it, to whom am I actually referring when I write about “the Writer’s Life?” Am I so bold as to assume that I am writing for all writers? All She Writers? How could I possibly know your dreams or plans; your strengths or weaknesses? Who the hell do I think I am?
Although I feel like I have always been a writer, I haven’t always been a Writer. I’ve had jobs where I was a part of a team or section or department and although I hope I was thought of as a “team player” I typically didn’t assume I could speak for everyone with whom I worked. I didn’t write articles in the company newsletter called, “The Secretary’s Life” or “The Adjunct English Teacher’s Life.” I suspect I would have had some challenges to my observations. As I myself see, on occasion, whenever I come across some other writer’s ideas of what my life is supposed to look or feel like. The phrase, “Hmph. Who the hell does she think she is?” has certainly escaped my lips. More than once.
Many years ago, I left a job because the environment was toxic and the administration was nepotistic, however, that was clearly not the reason that would be public knowledge about my departure. Instead, it was made known that I was “retiring.” Right. At fifty. My boss, who was also leaving (and actually retiring, which triggered my decision to leave as she was my only ally) gave me a beautiful card to wish me well on my writing endeavors. The front of the card said, “She decided to start living the life she’d imagined.”
So, I did. Not all at once and not even really consciously, but little by little, living the life I had imagined became the way I made decisions, chose other jobs or even declined work. It has been slow going, that’s for sure; I am now 58 and I get optimistic when I see an article about Grandma Moses or other artists who “made it” when they were in their sixties, seventies and beyond!
Is the lens of my writer’s life any more clear or illuminating than anyone else’s? Of course not. Certainly there are those writers who come across my posts and think to themselves, “Hmph. Who the hell does she think she is?” I don’t know what everyone’s writing life is like. I don’t know about all the struggles, the compromises, the sacrifices or tests that other writers have to negotiate to live this life. My purpose in contributing my experience--through my lens--is to share an understanding of what it is like to choose work that fulfills and sustains, but not always in the traditional way. I want to commiserate on the challenges, share the strategies and congratulate the achievements with other writers. Mostly, though, the reason I have the audacity to write this column is to convey the realization that I did the right thing in having chosen--finally--to live the writer’s life.