Tuesday, September 6, 2011
WRITERS AND THEIR DAY JOBS
Writing just doesn't make sense. Economically, anyway. The work is exceedingly difficult, and there is no guaranteed success. In fact, there is not even a guaranteed job at the end of a writer's training--unlike medical school, say, where one can generally find a practice somewhere, even if one has to move to a less desirable zip code; or dental school, where most graduates will eventually find an open mouth; or law school, where the bar must be passed, of course, but after that highly billable hours will be available to pay back exorbitant school loans. The average person is willing to pay for these services, or, more accurately, must pay for these services in our litigious and increasingly sickly society. On the other hand, the average person doesn't read. Not much, anyway. Road signs and cereal boxes. The occasional sports page. Along with financial security, these other professions are rewarded with a certain prestige bordering on awe, and society is more than satisfied to meet them with great respect, even pushing their daughters forward (or sons, for that matter) hoping to kindle romance, whereas writers are looked upon as creative oddballs at best, or, at worst, the giant insect Gregor Samsa metamorphosed into, and certainly not the type of individual to whom respectable citizens would entrust their daughters (writers will find their daughters, anyway, truth be told). Invoking Kafka isn't inappropriate; who best to tell the tale than a harried day clerk who wrote by night? A writer works day jobs, and there is no guarantee a book will ever be published, and even less chance for a work of literary fiction (as opposed to a diet book, a cat book, or a cheesy romance). No wonder logical people look askance, parents fret, bankers grumble, and armchair psychiatrists question their sanity. But the writers will have their day. As the burghers gather on the golf course, thumbs hooked in their vestpockets, they have no idea the man pouring their drinks in the Golf Club will one day eviscerate them in print, traducing their unimaginative lives with wit, drawing laughs with their Babbitry (Babbit: noun; A narrow-minded, self-satisfied person with an unthinking attachment to middle-class values and materialism). For now, the writer pours their weak beers and submits to their puerile humor and too loud laughter, but he is listening --listening with a keen, sensitive ear--to their offhand remarks, their self-satisfied mutterings, their puffed-up opinions on sports and cigars and women and automobiles--because he is also a trained professional, and this is his practice, and while he may be working on a long shot he's right on schedule. He is the writer.