Technically speaking I am among the throngs of the unemployed. It’s not a bad situation for me as it is for thousands of others; I’m still living at home with my parents, and they both have steady (or fairly steady) jobs to keep us fed and clothed. I’m pretty blessed in the fact that they’re not raring to throw me out onto the streets or finding ways to not-so-subtly encourage me to get any job I can find.
That’s not to say I’m not looking; I am. I’m just not sure how excited I am about getting a job in the first place.
When I was younger, I imagined writers that I adored sitting back with their families, writing at leisure, sending off manuscripts to editors and publishers and whatnot, and being lazy in the meantime. It sounded like a great life to me. Get paid to write? And have lots of free time on the side? Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Unfortunately, as all childhood dreams are wont to do, I wised up. Perhaps I don’t have all the facts, but I’m fairly certain most of the writers out there are not sleeping in, writing a few hours a day, and then making lavish dinners using the expensive ingredients they’re able to buy on their author’s income. To my knowledge it’s a little more common for writers, especially those who are unestablished, to work a second job until they make enough money writing that they don’t need a supplementary income.
Or, in the case of a lot of female writers I’ve seen, they’ll write all day while their husbands work. Even in that situation, I can’t see it being the leisurely art I often dreamed of. And the husband either has a very good job or the family lives modestly.
I get the feeling that’s a more practical way of looking at things.
I’m not published, at least, not in terms of novels. I’ve barely finished writing my first one. And I’m afraid it needs months of work to get it into a presentable stage that could be used to query agents or publishers. No, I’m nowhere near being a published author.
But I always wanted to be one. And now I’m wondering how long my parents would consent to letting me be a stay-at-home author while unpublished and with no form of supplementary income. I’m guessing that won’t last long if I’m not at least looking for a job.
Sometimes I think it’s too bad I don’t already have a rich husband willing to let me stay home and write all day. But then again I probably wouldn’t have written my first novel had I already been married. A lot of things would be different. And I imagine a lot of authors have had the same thoughts.
How would things have changed for some of our favorite authors if they hadn’t had the experiences they did? For one thing, we wouldn’t have nearly as exciting of books to read. The whole ‘write what you know’ admonishment does tend to stick, after all. For another, some of the great authors might never have begun writing had they not experienced certain things.
I think that would be a great travesty, personally. To have the ability to put into words something that is precious and beautiful and yet never to use it? It’s like Bach having never composed. And what would the world be like without ‘Toccata and Fuge in D Minor’?
Certainly we wouldn’t know what we’d missed, but would there be a part of us that yearned for something greater than ourselves? It’s possible.
Even so, it is, as I’ve read in various Q&As with authors, a good thing to have jobs and husbands (or wives) on the side of writing. While writing can be a passion, writing in and of itself is almost never the message. Even in the dry spells, there’s something to be drawn out, molded, shaped into something brighter, and then kneaded like dough. There’s a message to give if one just knows what to look for.
As much as I hate to admit it, my own state of unemployment even has its own story to tell. The only question is how to wend my way through the detritus to find the gold gems beneath.
In the meantime, as I do my own searching, I’ll be hunting for the elusive job. And I’ll be grateful that published authors, like the rest of us, had to start somewhere. In fact, I believe I read a quote about that: “Don’t be discouraged; everyone who got where he is started where he was.”