What I Do

I’m a writer.

It's me! Except for the pipe. Hmm, maybe that's the key to this writer thing...

That may not be clear from reading Crisis? What Crisis?, since some posts are just random emotional spewings, rather than the well-crafted prose we expect from a writer. And it took me a long time to say “I’m a writer,” even after I was doing it for a living. The playwriting I try, and any other creative endeavors with the word – they make me even less comfortable saying I’m a writer. But facts are facts: I’ve been lucky enough to make my living writing for more than 20 years.

Recent events have once again shaken my confidence in my abilities, in my faith that I can go on doing this only thing I feel I can do slightly better than the average person (and the proliferation of well-written blogs has shown me that a lot of people who aren’t “writers” are pretty damn good at this self-expression thing).

Concern number 1: the state of freelancing in my chosen field. Technology and the recession have been the one-two blow to the non-stop assignments of years past. Most of the jobs that do come through are at a pretty laughable pay scale, given my experience and what rates were like 15 years ago. No inflation, apparently, in this small sphere of the publishing world, as clients offer less than they did for something similar all those years ago. Yes, laughable, but the bills and changing finances from the New Crisis mean there aren’t many chuckles around here lately. And since there are plenty of writers who will take these low-paying jobs…I sign the contracts and grit the teeth.

The obvious solution, and one I’ve been exploring, is to take up other kinds of writing gigs that pay. But of course, those gigs requires new skills (the web copywriting/SEO route), or taking a big risk (the attempt to create a new website that might, some day, actually make money through ads), or looking for an office job to get a little security and some benefits (though there again, my skills seem to me a little thin compared to the others who seek that same security and those same benefits). Underlying all of this is the emotional…concrete that has settled around my heart and soul at times, making it so hard for me to trudge through the morass of the IMD, let alone set off on new paths

Yes, the IMD; there it is. I had been wrestling with the idea of setting a new course in my career anyway, but the coming divorce (court date now set, for those of you creating a timeline at home) has both upped the sense of urgency for change and made it so hard to think about much more than surviving another day. Though it gets better – and at some level, I think writing, mostly this writing here at the Crisis, has helped. Writing, I and many other writers believe, is a way to order your sometimes-random thoughts and emotions, figure out exactly what it is you think and feel and aspire to. And knowing that people are reading the words – all six of you – and perhaps getting some insight into how someone feels during such a trying time, or else being spurred to offer their own wisdom from relationship pains past; that‘s all good. I write to share and connect, as well as spew out my guts. Yes, I have no boundaries, which can scare/bore/shock some people. But in putting  down the interior BS, I hope others will see something of themselves, of the sorrows and struggles and occasional triumphs that makes us all the same, as much as we are different.

Thinking about writing, why I do it, why I probably always will, I thought about some of the highlights from my writing life. In elementary school, writing creative papers for my sister (three years older) and getting A‘s – the satisfaction of that has never faded. The math teacher in 6th or 7th grade, who gave me the “Hemingway Award” for spending more time in her class revising my English papers than trying to solve equations. The high-school composition teacher who tried to ease my father’s concerns that I would some day end up in a garret, since I had already decided I wanted to write for a living. She, of course, was no seer, but she assured him it was not as wild-eyed an idea as some she had heard.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have others along the way who believed in my talents, whatever they are, and helped me sharpen my skills. I’m grateful that I am always learning and hopefully still getting sharper – even if I never come close to the kinds of awards I referred to in a recent post. Yes, having the dream – still – of a Tony or Oscar is good, I guess. Realistically? Ain’t gonna happen. But that’s ok. I have probably done as much as I could with the talent I was given and the skills I’ve tried to hone. But maybe not. Some times I think I have been lazy, not written with the fervor of the truly driven artist. Not revised with the passion for perfection that could lead to the success I say I want.

Then I think, maybe the New Crisis, once the dust settles, will open new doors on the work side of writing, and inspire new avenues of both content and form on the creative side. Maybe I’ll shake off some of that lethargy or satisfaction with the status quo and burn with a need to write like never before. Or else I’ll come to truly accept who am I and the level of success I have achieved, can achieve, and say, “That’s cool. I’m fine with it. Now let me see what else I can do in other parts of my life.”

Who knows? I feel like I know so little these days; so much is so unsure. Except – still, and I hope always – except for this:

I’m a writer.


~ by mburgan on October 4, 2010.

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