Writing is an art. Time-worn cliches about suffering for art aside, as writers, our particular brand of suffering is twofold: being misunderstood and fighting against the clock. Writing isn’t seen as an art by the general public. When someone uses paint and canvas, she is easily identified as an artist. The word “serious” is tacked onto “artist” to connote a painter who sells their work or has reached a minimum level of critical notice. When we call ourselves writers, people “write us off” unless we can spout out a long list of glossy publishing credits, three best sellers and a prize-winning book of poetry. It’s as if writing isn’t permitted to be classified as a legitimate pastime. If you write, people think you must do it for money. If you haven’t earned any money (or at the very minimum, a publishing credit) you’re a hack wasting your time. Poets especially garner the disdain of the “show me the money” public.
As if bad image wasn’t enough, writers fight against time. We can never have enough. The overwhelming majority of writers have other jobs and families that deservingly demand their time. Any artist must be a personal time management/development genious by knowing where the line is between obligations to others and obligations to yourself. Second, any artist must be more disciplined than cloistered nun. When life gets in the way of writing, our judgment in these two vital areas gets clouded. Am I being a bad mother if I send my child to a babysitter so I have time to write? Forget time! How much money should I spend on this? Is it a hobby or am I looking to publish and switch careers?
Today, like everyday, I am juggling many obligations and desires at once. My social media habits of Twittering and IM are (important!) distractions enough. Pile on top the desire to get some journalism bylines and a lucky offer of an on-line article, then throw in some Saturday family time and the need to actually eat, you wind up with a measly 198 words of fiction for the day. Today I’ll catch up, but I’m still under deadline for that potential article (I’ll post a link if it happens -I’m very excited about it). I’ll have to make some decisions on how to spend my precious writing time.
We suffer for our art, just like every artist or artisan in any medium since the beginning of time. It is the human condition. It is part of what makes art profound, what makes it necessary for us to have as a species. As an artist, you have a talent for insight into human behavior that others don’t have. Use it, cultivate it, legitimize it. I give you permission right now to say “I’m a writer.” The only thing you have to do to fulfill that promise is to sit down and write. You are allowed to take time to do that. Write for your future generations. For the world. But most importantly, for yourself. Writers write. Do it today.