Last weekend I talked to my dear friend, Suzanne, who has been both vice principal of a Catholic school plus a fifth grade teacher for at least the last two and a half decades. We tend to lose touch for long periods of time, both of us being mothers and busy workers.
I am not sure she has ever completely understood my (and every other writer’s) insane compulsion to write even at the expense of a decent salary. When I told her what I make as a college adjunct writing teacher, she said in a very throaty voice (some disgust evident), “Julia, Go get a job.”
My feelings are raw today, pained. They have been hurting since the weekend. So here I offer two deathbed scenarios:
1. A person who made enough money to feel like he or she was respected (and who was also able to pay bills) in society and not “used.” That person will die, let us hope, satisfied, thinking, “I did some quality work and was paid for it.”
2. The second person (note: in my case, female, omitting the details about having lived two decades on a far distant continent where females have no rights) being a writer, spent a good portion of her time writing quality work, and by God’s mercy, saw children graduate and never go without. That person will die thinking, “I left some quality work even if I was not paid* for it.”
If person #2 obeys person #1 before the climactic deathbed scene, then person #2 (having thrown aside writing and gotten trained in waning years to do something for the sake of money) may die thinking, “I never wrote the things I wanted to write.”
This is the quandary that most dedicated writers face. As Lesley Kellas Payne, lifelong editor to committed writers has noted elsewhere, “Those who have to write.” That is, writers write because we have to. No choice!
You were waiting for Margaret Atwood, as well you should have been. According to today’s Publisher Weekly,
At this morning’s TOC conference Margaret Atwood spoke on the the way writers are continually getting short shrift in this new digital age. “We’ve heard a lot about change. Change is not always good.”