Monday, August 20, 2012

The Image of a Writer's Life

Good Morning. Sorry I skipped out last week, but I've been super crazy nuts busy getting the old house painted. Still not done, I need more paint, but there's also wood to haul, a shed to clean, a bathroom to gut, and the downstairs I have yet to decide what to do with (graffiti would be an improvement).

All that being said, I wonder how big name authors spend their days -- writing in their air conditioned offices with a plethora of researchers, housekeepers, maids all catering to their every whim. Let's not forget they all have wonderful Scottish nannies to take care of the kids, and their spouses are marvels in the kitchen so they don't have to scrape together another round of mac and cheese and hot dogs.

I know most big name authors have schedules, and probably more than a few of them have maids and/or some kind of outside help, but I keep remembering Danielle Steele's appearance on Merv Griffin (remember him?) way back in the late 70's early 80's. She wore pearls and a long flowing chiffon something, could have been a gown for all I know, she kept playing with the scarf, flipping it between her fingers. She reminded me of Elizabeth Taylor. And then Merv did an expose on her house. California big, with a pool, and a view. Back then, she and Jackie Collins were big name authors. And I guess somehow, that's what stuck in my head. Glamorous, elegant, rich.

This image people have of writers is so not how it really is. Well, at least it's not for me. Like I have all this time to just write every day. Yeah, like that's possible when the kid is sick, the dogs pooped all over the carpet, the cat knocked down five of my african violets off the shelf, and my mother has been bitching the grass needs to be cut. Add the fact we're going back to school in less than a week, I'm dealing with financial bullshit from the ex, and it's raining -- AGAIN.

I know I'm whining. You know I'm whining. I think we're all entitled to it once and awhile.

The reason I bring this up at all is -- I had an outside interview last week. Our new house is in a golf community and they have a monthly newsletter. The woman who writes the letter is a friend of my mother's. Well, when she found out we lived here now, she called me and wanted to know what I was doing. When she met me five years ago, I was a caterer. When I told her I was now a writer she said, "How unusual."

What does that mean exactly?

Are we, as writers, unusual? Are the five million of us currently writing books weird, or kooky, or out of the ordinary? Sure we're introverts, sure we have our little rituals before we tackle those revisions, sure we don't speak to people between the hours of 8-1. Sure we eavesdrop on stranger's conversations, have a penchant for back booths and corner tables in coffee houses, and we might even push the bounds of research occasionally and have the Secret Service show up at our door. But does that really make us unusual?

I explained to Judith I wrote in a niche market, Regency romance, and that I had two novels and several short stories out, and I had also just published my first contemporary romance. She oohed and ahhed in all the right places, and then she asked, "So are you going back to catering anytime soon?"

Why do people automatically assume you won't be able to hack it as a writer? Why do people automatically assume you need to have a "job" because you also write? Back in the day, I was a waitress who wrote. Or a housekeeper who wrote. Or a chef who wrote. Now, I'm a writer. That's it. Just a writer.

The Image of a Writer's Life isn't glamorous. Well, at least not this writer. But I'll take a two hour nap after weed wacking, just so I don't ever have to go back to the "real world" again. I'll put up with disappointing reviews, and writer envy, and not meeting my word count, just so I can stay home. Perhaps agoraphobia is the culprit. Perhaps it's just my way of being the black sheep. Just a little unusual. It doesn't matter. I am who I am, and I'm a writer.

I wonder if Nora Roberts cuts her own grass?

Tell me -- what kind of reaction do you get when you tell people you're a writer?


Linda G. said...

Why is it so tough for a writer to own what s/he does? Are we bashful?

I mean, actors don't seem to have the same problem. An actor, even one who hasn't "made it" yet, is always "an actor who waits tables" or "an actor who moonlights at the dry cleaner's" or "an actor who makes ends meet by baby-sitting." But always an actor first. (Heck, I was an actor who day-lighted as a school teacher. *grin*)

I think writers should take a lesson from that. You should put writing first in your own head. I'm glad you've done that. :)

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Linda. Yeah, I wonder why we don't think we can "own" it -- the writing. Like it's some dirty little secret.

Bish Denham said...

Good grief! I can't believe how rude some people can be. Or are they just ignorant/unenlightened? Over all I seem to have a good response when I tell people I write.

I believe for the majority of us, writing is not a pretty sight because things like washing the clothes, mopping the floor and grocery shopping get in the way of our lounging about in our ermines and pearls and clicking at our keyboards with our manicured nails.

Talli Roland said...

Where I live in London is chock full of creative types, and I reckon nearly everyone and their dog are published writers (well, maybe not their dogs, but you get the picture). I'm just another one of the many.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I get all kinds of reactions under the sun, but I'm getting to the point where I don't care anymore how people react. They can sort out their own feelings for what I do. I have to sort out my own feelings for what I do, and that is enough to keep me busy.

Perhaps you can take comfort in the fact that your words will live far beyond this woman after you're both gone, and your influence will most likely reach many more than hers ever will.

Feeling unvalidated by people sucks, but as Eleanor Roosevelt always said, nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. :)


I guess I'm too old to care. Mostly I'm around writers now who are friends and we all have the same types of problems.
Most of my other friends are just impressed that I can sustain a thought long enough to write it!
You are in the beginning of your career with a young one to take care of and life is difficult from all ends at that point. I'm at the other end of the spectrum and it no longer matters what people think or say.
And I never want to be on television wearing pearls and chiffon. I shudder!!! I remember those authors and those days. I'm all for just being who we are.
Cheers. May the rain stop and the day/days get better for you.

Stacy McKitrick said...

The reaction I get when I tell someone I'm a writer? They usually tell me that they've always wanted to write a book, too, but couldn't find the time. I bite my tongue on that. If you really want to write, you'll find the time.

But when I'm asked if I'm published, and I tell them, "Not yet," then they think I'm not a real writer. Oh well. Can't please everyone!

Good luck on getting your house fixed up. My place is a mess, but it will be years (if ever) before I can afford to hire that maid! Man, I'd really like one of those!

Hanny said...

Great post! I have too much to say about it. Maybe we are weird, but one thing I suspect most people forget is that writing is art, and writers artists. This means that we didn't all have university jobs before our books were published, but that some were caterers and warehouse monkeys--like I currently am.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Not weird. Special. Writers view the world through the eyes of imagination and "what ifs", and I think that's a terrific thing. I don't think I've ever actually called myself a "writer", but everyone who knows me knows a couple of my pieces have been published, and that I spend an inordinate amount of time at the keyboard. That's fine. No need to label it. Cop-out? Maybe.

Lynn Proctor said...

it's funny, the more i write, the more i insist i am not a writer--great post!

February Grace said...

No one ever seems surprised.

Especially when I get to the 'poet and artist too' part. The poets were always the craziest of the lot (it's been documented).

Thinking of you. You're not whining, and I am sorry things have been so rough. I hope you get a break from all that backbreaking work soon, and a little quiet time to yourself.


Francine Howarth: UK said...

I rarely tell anyone I'm a writer outside of the writing community. People usually ask where I live and when I say in a nice countryside location with my own land (those who don't know me)will say but you don't sound Welsh. No I don't, I'm English I say, and they say "oh where from" and this is where I say "And You?". That's the key to let them talk about themselves and they forget what it was they asked you in the first place, then you move on! Too late they realise they missed their chance to pin me down. ;)


Wendy Ramer, Author said...

Sorry, Anne, but I still have that other job - the one that helps support my family since my writing isn't there yet. So I can't in good faith claim to be a writer first, though in my heart that's what I am.

Sarah Ahiers said...

I don't tell a lot of people i'm a writer. But that's probably because i don't get out much ;)
But when i do, i've only ever gotten support or interest

Jennifer Shirk said...

Honestly, I don't think people know what to say when you say you're a writer.
One time I was at the library and someone I knew walked up to me and asked what i was doing. I told her working on my book. So she says, "Awww...that's so cute."

So I guess we're unusual AND cute. LOL

Susan Fields said...

Sometimes after a research session, I do wonder if Secret Service is going to show up at my door - I'm glad I'm not the only one!

I think people are just jealous when we tell them we're writers - that's why they react so strangely. :)

Elliot Grace said...

...I adore your down to earth thinking, Anne ;)

The question asked was, how do writers without Scottish nannies pull it off? As soon as anyone figures it out, let me know!

Something funny, and a bit cool...lately I haven't been explaining away my passion for writing, but rather answering the question, "so when's the next story coming out?"

That's a fun one to answer ;)