We work bloody hard, we Writers. We don’t have a union to guarantee us a livable wage. Almost all of us have ‘day jobs’ to put the roof over our heads and food on the table.
We’re one of the best organised professions, yes, professions, ever. Everything we ever need to know about all aspects of our craft is somewhere in the interwebz, or in the resources section of our local libraries. We, in general, help each other up rather than tear each other down.
… so, when someone makes a comment like this, I get steamed.
Every sunday evening The Writers Chatroom has a regularly scheduled Guest Speaker. Two Sundays ago it was a bloke by the name of John Yamrus who writes poetry. Not that he calls himself a poet. He’d rather be a plumber than a poet. He finds being called a poet ‘degrading and limiting’.#
This is the verbatim text of his response to a question I asked that evening in the Chatroom:
4:19 PM [Widdershins] … what is it about the genre/format(poetry) that speaks to you as a means of telling your ‘songs and dances’?
4:20 PM [john yamrus] i think the thing that keeps me going at this (i’ve been publishing for 42 years now) is that i’m still capable of surprising myself. when i can’t do that anymore, when it’s no longer any fun, i’ll take up house painting. done
4:21 PM [redacted] LOL
4:21 PM [redacted] house painting sounds fun
4:21 PM [john yamrus] and it’s more honest work, too. done
It was an off-the-cuff remark, intended (I hope) to be funny, and in keeping with the persona he portrays in his interviews. It didn’t do a thing for me, but I thought at the time, ‘What the hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinions’.
They I thought about it some more.
When the Writers Chatroom opens it’s doors twice weekly, an eclectic mix of writers gather. All sorts of genres are represented, and the writers themselves are at all levels of experience. (there’s also usually a great selection of yummy eatables on a table at the back of the room)
I wondered if someone, standing quietly to one side of the room, or sitting in the very first row scribbling notes furiously, heard that comment and thought to themselves, if someone who’s been in the business that long, and with so many pieces published (do a search of his name and you’ll see what I mean) thinks that his chosen profession is less honest than house painting, then maybe I’m in the wrong business.
I’m not saying we should coddle or lie to ourselves and each other, about how bloody hard this work is. That would be a grave disservice, and no, there aren’t fancy degrees from prestigious universities and colleges that will guarantee us a living wage, but writing is an HONEST, valued, essential, PROFESSION.
Without writers (of poetry, of fiction, of self-help, technical manuals, non-fiction, prose, plays, screenplays, travel guides – I could go on but you get the point) our society wouldn’t function in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed.
For those of you who have doubts, or feel vaguely guilty that you don’t have a day ‘real’ job, or steal minutes away from other demands on you time because you MUST write, do not let anyone (including those pernicious inner voices) convince you that you are somehow ‘less than’ because you’ve chosen to join the HONOURABLE PROFESSION of WRITER.
“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it” – Anais Nin – 1903-1977
“Some critics will write ‘Maya Angelou is a natural writer ‘– which is right after being a natural heart surgeon” – Maya Angelou