Dear Sad Writer (Who Ain’t Got No Job)

A few years back, my friend and former student, shared an article with me about self-publishing. The article was a piece from The New York Times about 25-year-old Amanda Hocking, who’s earned about $2 million self-publishing and landed a contract for about the same amount with St. Martin’s Press.

I want to sell books, but I honestly don’t want to know these writers’ “secrets” most of the time. A lot of these stories make me sick. Disgusted. So much so that my insular cortex hurts. However, I am tired of success stories about people who had time to write because they went through a shitty break-up or didn’t have a job. (How you can’t have a job, I don’t know. Maybe they’re like Pip and have a Great Expectations-level benefactor.)

I find the brooding, self-loathing, body-mangling artist tiring and hackneyed. When you’re not two seconds from gift-wrapping your earlobe to a hooker, people say stupid things such as, “Oh. So you’re a functioning writer.” So sorry to disappoint, but not all of us can just drive to East Nashville and get day-drunk. We have spouses and mortgages and choose not to submit to the stereotype about writers that’s as old as (insert cliche here, like a joke about old men + insecure girls = subverting their daddy issues).

The proof”s in The New York Times pudding, as Strawberry Saroyan (and let’s not even get into the naming your children after fruit thing) wrote,”. . . Hocking described what was, for someone who becomes a writer, a not-unfamiliar childhood. ‘I was seriously depressed for most of my life,’ she said. She channeled her feelings into fan fiction.”

I know this song: Play that same, tiny violin. Then, use it to beat the dead horse. Repeat.

Am I a little jealous? Sure, I’ll cop to that. It’s the fairy tale situation for a self-published author, who then gets the best gig ever (and finally gets the attention of an agent and publisher). But my point remains valid.  Tell me about a real struggle you overcame — like writing with no fingers. And for God’s sake, can’t one famous author do an interview and say his/her life has actually been pretty good?

I want to be inspired, and I am inspired, by stories like Dennis Lehane’s. He’s famous because his writing is phenomenal, but he was originally was turned down by all these publishers who said people wouldn’t like his first novel — Mystic River. Now tons of his books have been made into movies with big name actors and directors. When you read his words, they hurt sometimes because the prose is so beautiful.

Or even Stephen King, who still managed to write after getting hit by a van. Thesis? Write a lot. Be yourself. Read inspiring tales from writers who made it rather than obsess over the “overnight” successes that seem so prevalent in the news. Hell, you can even be peachy if you want to. Nobody ever said writers had to be miserable, wear all black, have addictive personalities or advised you to hire a secretary to hide all your razor blades.

Writers can be happy, too.


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