THE IMAGE, AFTER ALL, OF A WRITER

As I said at the time:

I suppose every writer will have had an image of what an acclaimed author would look like. Maybe the impression comes down through a tour of one of those great hushed houses of history – Longfellow or Twain or Whittier or James Whitcomb Riley come to mind. Hemingway’s Key West, as well. Or from the book jacket portraits or a magazine interview or critiques. Then there are the novels and movies themselves about literary struggle and the inevitable success. So much for the myth – and myth it is, with the superhuman vision and divine blessing accompanied by the Guide’s intervention and the visitors’ awe. And just where does each of us place ourselves in its manifestations?

My own expectations have changed greatly. When I set forth from college, I still envisioned an urban life – a stylish high-rise or a federal era townhouse or a loft in some variation of Greenwich Village – accompanied by a suitable social circle. Or life in a quaint college town, as an alternative. Within a few years, though, I was willing to swap for a rambling farmhouse in the mountains or on a lake, with my studio set out on a ridge. Shades of Kesey and Kerouac, of course. All the while, however, I was employed full-time and trying to work in serious writing in my off-hours – the evenings and weekends while my colleagues were raising children, picking up overtime (“OT”) to buy the house and car of their dreams, going off to professional ballgames and rock concerts. My frugal sabbatical year changed the vision, and publication of my first novel delivered a hardened sense of reality. Now I realized how many writers with a string of books to their credit still drew their main paycheck elsewhere. When they met for lunch, the discussion was likely centered on mortgages, medical problems, and mutual friends rather than literature. I could still hope that a breakout novel might free me from the newsroom, but there was no guarantee it would suffice. There had to be a crack in the wall, of course, someplace, if I could only find it and break through. None of this has lessened the compulsion to write; if anything, that has intensified as I turned away from the management track and, thanks to Newspaper Guild union membership, could afford to live a modest life away from the basic hours at the office. (No more sixty- and seventy-hour workweeks.)

Now I imagine it intensified in official retirement. At the moment, I do not sense another novel in the works – not with seven or eight still awaiting a publisher, in addition to the volumes of Quaker history and spirituality, the genealogies, and the poems. So there is plenty of revision to do, plus correspondence and submissions. Perhaps there will finally be time to attend conferences and workshops, to travel, to give readings. I see it continuing where I am, in Dover, where I’ve established friends and community. Maybe the loft of the barn will be finished into a year-round space, as I’ve longed dreamed, but even that’s not necessary; now that I can access it via attic stairs, it serves nicely as a three-session rustic retreat with room to spread out papers and manuscripts. Besides, as long as the children are gone, there’s a bit more room in the house.

What has changed is that successful author has become simply an active writer.

~*~

And to that let me add, Thank God for Smashwords! As well as WordPress!

 

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