Thursday, January 23, 2014

On Being A Writer

I love facebook, partly because of the minutia: the reports of people's meals, days, the weather, cats, children... Also, because I get interesting links and get into interesting conversations. My facebook colleagues almost all have some connection to science fiction and most are interested in politics, the environment, science, literature... as well as cats...

What follows is part of a facebook discussion, which begins from a quote from Samuel R. Delany:
"Samuel Delany once said that to succeed at writing, he had to give up everything else. He sacrificed his health, his relationships, in pursuit of becoming the best at what he did. The people who won worked harder than other people. They were willing to sacrifice more."

For me, writing has been a part of other activities: making friends, building a community, holding more or less interesting day jobs, having an interest in politics and economics and birdwatching... I can't remember giving up much in order to write. I feel as if the writing has woven in and out of the rest of my life.

I decided early on that (a) it wasn't easy to make a living at writing and (b) I didn't want to be dependent on income from writing. I wanted to be able to walk away from deals because I thought they were bad. And I did, in fact, walk away from a deal for two books because the publisher wanted to edit my politics out of one of the books. It would have been a lot harder to walk if I'd needed the book money. I think I would have done it anyway. But it might have led to hard times
Josh Lukin gave me a link to a review of a collection of Delany essays done by L. Timmel DuChamp. I wrote:
I read Timmi's essay and really like it. I am now trying to decide if I need to read the Delany book. I suspect it would discourage me, since I'm not at all sure I have to the kind of passion and commitment he is describing. Maybe I'm not a writer. Right now I am enjoying being mildly under the weather, looking at Patrick sleeping on the couch, drinking coffee. At some point -- maybe not today -- I will think about writing.

Was Grace Paley a writer? She was a teacher, a political activist, a parent and grandparent, the author of three collections of short stories and three books of poems. Per Wikipedia, "in a May 2007 interview with Vermont Woman newspaper – one of her last – Paley said of her dreams for her grandchildren: 'It would be a world without militarism and racism and greed – and where women don't have to fight for their place in the world.'" I wouldn't mind a life like hers, though I am a terrible teacher and I don't have children, only younger friends.


Blogger CJDevall said...

About this and your middle class culture post- I was struck in reading the "Best of" lit fic anthology from 2012. The content varied greatly from past years in that, while the styles were similar, the focus of the characters was on video games, comic books, and fantasy stories in about 75% or more of the stories. They were having their usual neuroses and bland lives with small movemenrs towards realization or whatnot, but their lives had gone cyberpunk or all Tolkein thru tech interfaces or immersion in pop culture. It's a very odd shift, but makes perfect sense in the midst of our current techno-cultural churning. It was like reading watered down and neutered/spayed SFF, yet really just more Cheever and Carver in a contemporary setting. Now I'm curious to see if that continued in 2013 or was just a blip.

8:01 AM  

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