So, we’re into October already, and I never did post the recaps of the rest of that weekend trip to California. Suffice to say, it was … bumpy and awesome. Our car was broken into, we visited Alcatraz, we ate at In-n-Out Burger (I really wish they had one in Washington — yum!), and we camped at Crater Lake on the way home. It was an eventful and scenic trip.
There were a lot of times when we were frustrated with the apparent indifference of Californians, but the difficulties of the trip brought us closer together as a family and made us better able to appreciate the beauties of the scenery and better able to laugh at the ridiculousness of the characters we saw along the way. So in the end, it was a great experience, and we really had fun.
In September, I had a major surgery and was pretty much out of commission for a few weeks. My laptop also died and was sent out for repair, only to be determined well and truly deceased. I received only the hard drive and a reimbursement check in return — thank the gods for a SquareTrade warranty. My husband went and bought me a cute little desktop computer as a replacement, and I finished the first draft of my book last week. It clocks in at a ridiculous 183k.
I don’t know why I talk about the word counts on my blog. I think it’s a nervous tic. I never really see/ read about other writers discussing their word counts — either they’re discussing their ideas/ posting chapters for feedback, or they’re just very tight-lipped about the entire process, as though discussing/ acknowledging that they’re actually writing a book is somehow bad luck/ cursing it.
There’s a little bit of that, a sort of sense that by saying, “I am writing a book, this is my word count,” I am calling a jinx upon myself, an ill-wishing. I feel like those words are both an attempt to ward off the curse of bad luck, and (somehow), perceived as drawing the bad luck to me. I dunno. Maybe it’s all in my head. I keep a little abreast of the online writing community — one finger grazing the surface of the pond, so to speak — but I’m not deeply immersed in it.
I’m aware that there’s a whole ocean out there of writers and aspiring-to-be writers, rife with advice and warnings and blogs and tweets. I read some of their stuff, when it bubbles up on my FB (like this). Mostly, though, I intentionally avoid it. It’s too interesting, and I want to be a writer. I feel like … until I actually manage to finish my book, until I actually manage to acquire an agent, all that stuff is a distraction. It’s tempting to me fail.
Like this blog, like reddit, like FB itself … these things are all time-sucks, and the main thing is that if I want to succeed at my dream, I have to write, first and foremost. I just have to. I’m lucky — I have a husband who supports my dream, and whose income supports our home. I have a beautiful, intelligent, and wonderful son who also supports my dream. I have the opportunity here to pursue it, to spend at least 4 hours for four days a weeks writing my fucking ass off without interruption, and even more hours on top of that with only the occasional interruption when my boys are home.
If I spend that time on reddit or FB or reading blogs about writing, then I have nothing to blame but lack of effort if I don’t get published.
But at the same time — I am lucky. I have a spouse to support me as I pursue my creative passion. That linked article up there, written by a paid staff writer at Salon, is discussing Wil Wheaton’s essay about the phenomenon of creatives being expected to work for free for “exposure,” and it’s a really great piece.
I’ve often thought the glorification of the starving artist and the correlating expectations that an artist who is just starting out should be happy to do work for free in order to make a name or build an audience. I think it’s a funny/ weird aspect of the way American culture tends to deny economic privilege/ classism when looking at the arts. It’s a lot easier to get started in an artistic career if you have some financial freedom and leisure time … a sponsor, a second/ steady income that’s not too much of a time suck and is both reliable and high, independent wealth, or someone supporting you.
I’m just saying, all the creativity and drive in the world isn’t really going to help a person if they’re flat-out exhausted from working two full-time jobs to make ends meet, balancing the groceries and bills and household chores on their own, and chasing after their kids without any help … and for our entire culture to tell aspiring creatives that not only can they expect to get paid jack-shit for their work, they actually have to give it away for free in order to drum up an audience is really devaluing that work and the effort that goes into it.
You need to have a measure of financial stability and leisure time to pursue creative work. That’s just a reality. This whole starving artist trope is poverty-romanticizing bullshit, and even if it was somehow accurate that extreme hardship somehow hones artistic creativity (which is, in its own way almost as insulting as the madness = genius stereotype), it still doesn’t justify not paying creators for their work.