Tuesday, 27 March 2012

A Writer's Work is Never Done (Or, The Closet Writer's Confession)

~It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. ...I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing. ~

Fact 1: a writer's work is never done. Fact 2: A writer's work is never 'seen' to be done or in the doing by other non-writer people.

By that, I mean a writer inhabits a private working sphere. We don't go to an office and clock in for a 9 t0 5 routine, a public 'proper' job so to speak. Our work is not a starched -stiff 'noun', it's not a place we go to where we adopt a professional persona, it's more of a flexible verb, a constant and ongoing process, a purpose-fuelled personal quest.

It's more than work. More than a job. It's a vocation. A pursuit. A pledge. A purpose. A fire. A be-all-and-end-all. It's consuming. It's everything. And that's why we commit everything to it. All hours of the day and night, all energy, all thought space. As Eugene Ionesco said, 'A writer never has a vacation. For a writer life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.' Because it's a passion, an obsession, a calling we have no say in or ability to decline. It is simply, who we are. 

It's true to say that a writer's work is never done. We have no set routines, but we write at all hours, usually into the wee hours and beyond. Instead of 9 to 5, how does 10am-2am sound? Or 2am - 10am? Not even while seated at the computer, but while travelling, eating, doing dishes, having a drink, walking, washing, even sometimes, while chatting to others. We can't switch it off; it's there all the time. Our muse is our demanding (and delightful) boss and when she calls, we drop everything. When it's going good, we don't get paid for overtime or when we manage to get something published, we don't get a double-bonus promotion or an applause. What we do get is an inner satisfaction, a glowing. It's all absorbed into the private world of our writer selves.

And to be a writer is to work in secret. An invisible job almost. No one knows we do it. Because it's done on the side of other things (or as I prefer - other things are done on the side of it.)

It's a silent and secret occupation. Unless you work in journalism, writing is a solitary private activity. Many of your family, friends and peers probably don't know (or don't care) that you do it. When you say you're busy working on something, they fob it off as an excuse - what could you possibly be working on in general leisure time? They don't see you typing frantically into the wee hours. Or if they do, they choose to disregard it, put it down to a hobby, a tic, or a personality default, jeez.

But we writers, we live for the written word; nothing else matters. What other job can compare to it? (Well, except to be an artist of course). It absorbs us. It's our life. So should I not feel particularly wounded when this 'profession' of ours, this purpose, this obsession, this grand raison d'etre - goes under the radar to other people? Like it doesn't count somehow in the great big boring work world of commutes and routines and wages and bosses etc, etc.

Oh but it does. It so does.

How many people out there I wonder, pursue what they really want in this life? Their dream occupation, what it is they really 'ache' for? Or how many just settle for a 9-to-5 - to make use of the ironic phrase -'to make a living'? How can you really 'live' if you're not doing what it is you yearn to be doing here in this life? What really makes you come alive? You can exist sure, but not live. And whatever your choice of dream-job, regardless of how practical or impractical it seems (-excuses made up be people who are afraid ), it can be done. And it matters.

Sometimes I feel like a closet writer. Like I'm two people: my public job persona (tutoring/teaching/proofreading/whatever) and then my private writing persona, the thing that I really want to pursue, the thing that defines who I am, who I want to be. And sometimes it gets overshadowed by the 'day-job'. Darn, I feel almost like Clark Kent, who had a superhero alter-ego to tend to! (Sudden image of all us writers rip-revealing a W-emblazoned t-shirt beneath our everyday disguises...) Well, look where Metropolis would have been if he'd neglected to attend to that secret profession! Because to him it wasn't a duty or a job, it was who he was. So when people dismiss what I do, it feels like they're dismissing not just my 'work', but who I am. Because you see, 'all writing is communication; creative writing is communication through revelation - it is the Self escaping into the open'. (- EB White).

So instead of succumbing to my day job charade, I wish I could proclaim to the world: look here, I'M A WRITER, a writer you know, and I WRITE!!! (to the theme tune of Superman - do-do-do-dododododo preferably....) I write every day, every night, for publication, for purpose, sometimes just for sanity, sometimes just to drop a penny wish into the great big well of the universe, but - THAT'S MY WORK. Now next time you ask what I'm doing, please respect when I say I'm busy. Because I am. It might be invisible work to you, but not to me. It's as damn important to me as saving the world was to Superman! So please - do not disturb!!!!!

Yes, a coming out of the closet of sorts. Even though it probably would be met with dismissal, indifference or contempt, it would be worth it. I guess that's what I'm partly doing here in this post. And what I intend on doing in the non-digital world soon. There's only so much Clark Kent caper a girl can take.....

~ Siobhán.

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