When I published “Writer with a Day Job” (Writers Digest Books, 2011), I hoped that it would instigate us day-job writers to get chatting and sharing our strategies for balancing work with writing. Or I thought that some readers might comment on the book’s tutorials on the actual craft of writing narrative.
These have happened. But two weeks ago, one reader-feedback really stopped me in my tracks. It was a note from a woman who said that her personal takeaway from the book was that we deserve to write. Like many of us, this woman is balancing a job, a family and some additional responsibilities for her extended family.
Here’s an excerpt from her very kind email:
“Sometimes it's hard to justify writing even an hour a day when my job demands so much of me, and when the people I love need me so much. Your approach has helped me make an important shift: recognizing that it's writing that makes me a better person, that this feeds everything else.”
For years and years (and even still), this “deserving” issue was the biggest block to my own writing.
In 1992, amidst an interstate move and a few bad financial hits, I took the first steps toward my lifelong dream of being a writer. I signed up for a master’s program at a college in our new town—a program I financed through a patchwork of cash `n carry jobs, credit cards, a research assistantship and a very large dollop of naiveté.
Three months before this, my husband and I had packed our things into a Ryder truck and rented our house (it wouldn't sell) and moved to this place where he accepted a lower-level position at his old company. It was this or take a company pink slip. I worked as a waitress and as a front desk clerk and as a college administrative assistant. Once or twice a week, I left that day's particular job and gobbled down an after-work sandwich en route to my graduate classroom where, supposedly, I would enter the writing life.
But in that classroom or, later, scribbling in a bagel shop on my lunch hour, I believed that a girl like me—a new immigrant, a working wife, the child of working class parents—was an imposter. Creative writing was for the believers. The rich. The leisured. The erudite. Creative writing was for those who didn’t lie awake at night worrying about the mortgage, the in-laws or the credit cards.
Even when I did write or publish, I wrote with a certain timidity. As I sat there scribbling in strip mall cafes, or when I researched my papers in the college library, I envisioned a grand American literate—an exclusive club of scribes who held the secret code to La Vie des Ecrivans. I would never be a member. I would never deserve it.
What a bloody waste.
Now that I’m middle aged, now that I’ve cleared my credit cards, I know that writing is as much about believing as it is about doing. Above all, it’s about believing that writing is something that you deserve to do.
What about you? Do you believe, deeply, that you deserve the personal time out that it takes to write? Do women come to believe this more easily than men?
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