[THE WRITER'S LIFE] A Worship of Writers

My mother always says she wishes she hadn’t taught my brother, my sister, and me to be so nice--because, she explains, you don’t make any money being nice and people take advantage of you. She wishes shed taught us to be accountants, so we’d at least all be making a nice living now. Sometimes I think she shouldn’t have taught us to write.

The three of us are writers; I write humorous essays, my brother, Richard, is a screenwriter, and my sister Susan is a poet. We’ve all written for as far back as I can remember. Stories, plays, notes, and poems. I don’t remember if my siblings ever kept a diary, but I did. A small, square, light blue one with gold-edged paper and a little clasp to keep out prying eyes. So no one (my mom) would read the torrid and lusty accounts of my youthful escapades growing up in a large suburban subdivision in Louisville, Kentucky. Of which, of course, there were none.

We three can do nothing but write. All of us have had other, regular-paycheck jobs over the years, but we always come back to writing in some fashion or another. Or we incorporate writing into the other jobs we had to take. I was a church secretary for many years, and one of my responsibilities was to create and edit the monthly newsletter. For a brief time, my sister was in an administrative position at a non-profit organization and had to write annual reports and other documents that conveyed Important Information to stockholders and board members. My brother, in the mother of all faux writing careers, was a paralegal in a high-powered law firm in LA. He wrote briefs (which really aren’t) and compiled reams and reams of writing and more writing for years before he quit to concentrate on screenwriting. All of our jobs had some configuration of money and benefits that made us look like respectable, upright citizens of our respective communities. So what did we do? Quit. We quit the jobs we had so we could write. And each time we did it, I think we all heard my parents heave a sigh of foreboding from Florida.

For me, quitting was as easy as it was difficult. My writing self knew that if I stayed in a job that allowed me to “write” (newsletters, bulletins, and every other word a church puts out on paper) it would dull my ache to get my own writing done. I felt the desperation of not fulfilling my own dream of being a Writer--because that’s how it feels in your thirties when it seems like you will suddenly become old without realizing your own potential. When it came to the other parts of my life, particularly the single-parenting part, when I quit the church secretary job without another job in the pipeline and two little kids at home, I’m pretty sure people began to wonder what I was thinking. Clearly the divorce had left me with few, if any, brain cells with which to make grown-up decisions. I spent about six delicious months pursuing this crazy dream until a friend put a good word in for me at my kids’ school, and I once again became gainfully employed to the relief of--well, almost everyone I knew.

Richard made a similar decision when he left his law firm. He was a bit more prepared and had some savings put away, not only for the rainy days but for the sunny and slightly cloudy ones, too. Currently, he has a regular-paycheck job as a story editor for a production company, and he continues to work on his scripts. Susan also left, because, let’s be honest, what kind of poet can run a non-profit, anyway? She cultivated her gifts of creativity and conceptualization into a Master Gardener’s certificate, and now the only thing she has to administrate while she’s thinking in poetry is water for her plants. I still have to maintain a regular-paycheck job in order to pay the bills, but my energy and attention is drawn more to my writing.

Mine is a writing life indeed, because it is taking all my life to live it, understand it, and make the most of it. As I was searching for a collective noun to refer to my siblings and me, I almost made one up (a revision of writers?) until I found a website with a generally accepted term (check it out: http://bit.ly/1m5Bq89). The term? A worship of writers. One of the definitions of worship is to love or honor (someone or something) very much or too much, and that made sense to me. Sometimes, I feel like I worship writing too much, and maybe this is why I have, on occasion, put it ahead of groceries or education or a reliable car. Living a writer’s life might not be the most lucrative thing a girl can do, but as I look back on my life so far, my only regret is not writing more. So, really, I am glad that my mother didn’t encourage us to be accountants or lawyers or engineers. Not that the world doesn’t need those folks, too. I just don’t want to be one.

Or maybe I’m just being nice.

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  • RYCJ Revising

    Nice post, and very endearing photo.

    It's funny though, (and forgive me if I'm thinking sideways right now) but I guess what I'm feeling after reading your post is how reservations let's say, can go for pretty much anything... such as the lawyer or corporate exec, or managers at you name the store, or professional sports-players training and traveling 360 days out of one year... and of course writers who put a lot of passion into reading and writing... people often look at those showing a lot of passion for what they do, whether making a lot of money or not, and rarely fail to ask or allude, "is that all you do.?," 

    So, you are being nice, but in a good way. Little is more uplifting for me than hearing about or watching others put passion in what they love. And by the way, and again, NICE POST.