The "Working" Writer

As artists in general we strive to have our work seen, heard, read, and understood the world over. We don't necessarily seek fame and fortune (though that doesn't seem like a bad perk), we mainly want to have our voices (i.e., our work) available to the public, critically acclaimed perhaps. There are many ways to do this, especially in today's world of blogs, e-zines, self-publishing (something I'll get into in an upcoming post), the vast array of literary magazines (available in print and online), and so on and so forth.

We aim to become a working artist--in my case a working writer. While I consider myself a "working" writer this term conflicts with the one posed at the beginning of this paragraph (notice the nice quotation marks).

What I mean by the difference is that I consider a working writer to be someone along the lines of Jennifer Egan, Stephen King, Laini Taylor, Suzanne Collins, Toni Morrison, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Lethem, and the list goes on and on and on. These writers primary occupation is, you guessed it, to write. Many of them may teach and go on to do lectures or work as facilitators at conferences or write articles for various publications or do anything that is in line with their primary occupation, but they can also afford (in the financial and possibly even spiritual sense) not to do these things and focus solely on creating. Authors such as those listed have achieved a following, a longevity that allows their names to pull in interest from fans old & new and to proceed to write with deals already under contract even if they have no idea what the next project may be. These are the authors that may draw a crowd at readings, but also have some guaranteed sales and following and critical acclaim. (The ones I have listed are more high-tier authors, ones that wouldn't be considered mid-tier or low-tier because of the revenue generated from the sales of their books alone.) Being a high-tier author is what many "working" writers aspire to.

In contrast, I, among many others, am a "working" writer. Meaning, I am working in a separate career to help me fund and establish myself as a writer. The "working" writer is a jumping point for all of us, the authors listed above included, as we start off and progress to become that sought after figure people will wait hours or at least several minutes in line to get a copy of your work signed and sealed just for them.

The "working" writer has a job, maybe even several, but the primary one is the one that pays the bills, covers the cost of utilities and internet and Microsoft Word or any word processor program and eating and drinking and fees for Netflix or late library books. A "working" writer may or may not loathe said paying job. The "working" writer's secondary or tertiary job is the art itself (often unpaid).

The "working" writer spends money on graduate degrees and post-graduate degrees and probably continuing education classes as well as money on workshops, conferences, and residencies (be they the event itself or just on the application fees alone). The "working" writer pays contest fees and postage to submit their work for consideration by someone who deems it 'powerful' or 'enlightening' and may win a cash prize to balance out the costs, but often not. The "working" writer makes ends meat, but is willing to pay hundreds of dollars to have a professional review their work before they send it out for serious consideration.

The "working" writer may choose to self-publish their book and from then on spend much of their time and cash on publicizing something with little or no help from outside sources. The "working" writer makes time to write and doesn't have that luxury of doing so at any time of day or solely when it strikes them, no the "working" writer has to squeeze in that time before, after, and maybe even during work to get in a word count taking them that much closer to the conclusion of their piece (or pieces).

The "working" writer networks and schmoozes and has self-made business cards to hand out at any and every given turn, just in case. The "working" writer has the gall to ask you to look at their work and hound you until you fulfill that passing promise of "getting back to them when you can." The "working" writer will hold onto every contact they have, just in case. The "working" writer will take whatever time off they have from their paying job to go to attend something related to that secondary non-paying gig that we hold so dear it almost suffocates in our grip. The "working" writer doesn't quit, just keeps going, keeps writing, keeps revising, until they know in their heart they're done.

So, yes I am a "working" writer. I'm a writer working to have the story collection I've been daydreaming and evening dreaming about for the past several years come to fruition in a nicely bound book for the masses. I'm a writer working to strengthen their voice and their message so that not a page is wasted on a potential reader. I'm a writer working to entertain and enlighten while receiving the same from both working writers and "working" writers.

In aspect to the art itself and seeking to produce to engage an audience there is not much difference between the working writer and the "working" writer. Yet, from the perspective of the "working" writer the grass seems much greener on the other side.