Life

Why Write?

On more days than I care to admit, I sit around and try to understand why writers write.  There are probably as many answers to this as there are internet sites devoted to writing out there, but I still wonder.  The fact that many sites title themselves with names such as Writing and Other Forms of Insanity (this is just an example I happened to see today, but many writing sites have a variation on this title) should be a pretty strong clue that even writers aren’t quite sure why we do it.

Is it the fame and fortune?

Sorry, I’m back.  Had to stop and laugh.  Even writers with a long career and several excellent books to their name, published by the right houses and available on bookshelves aren’t precisely rich.  Other than the hyper-famous ones, the lucky writers make about the same amount of money as anyone else does from their job… but with less benefits.

As for fame, I personally know a los of brilliant, successful authors whose names, if you mentioned them to a random stranger on the street, would elicit a single word reply: “Who?”

All right.  Yes, Stephen King exists, and so does J.K. Rowling.  It’s possible to become rich and famous through writing in a way that you probably can’t by pursuing a career as an accountant.  The golden dream is always there, but most writers who start along the path chasing these things exclusively abandon their ambitions for some easier way to make a buck.  You may get there through writing, but it will be neither easy nor quick.

So it’s not money and it’s not fame.  Recognition, then?

Again, some starry-eyed folk might, armed with their mother’s kind words and their college professor’s admiration, embark on a publishing career expecting unlimited praise and adulation.  That usually lasts until the first rejection.  If they can get up after that, the next ten usually finish the job.

What the world thinks of your book

Then why? (Btw, I have a print of the above cartoon sitting on my desk)

All I can give you is my case.  I’ve been telling stories since I can remember.  I had a brother who is two years younger than I was who had to listen to a lot of them when we were kids.  He still reads my novels because I give them to him, so he is likely to be canonized once his story gets out.

And then, I discovered that, when not sweating blood over a keyboard (yes, this happens), I often enjoy writing.  Yesterday, for example, I wrote 1800 good words without even realizing it (this is in no way, shape or form normal).  I had fun and wrote a scene which made me chuckle.

But it isn’t all fun and games.  Now I have to write the next bit, and I have no clue as to what comes next.  Time to sweat those bullets.

So, habit and occasional enjoyment.  Is that it?

Probably not.  The sheer joy of getting an acceptance email has never disappeared.  I no longer dance down hallways as I did when I learned of my first sale, but I still have a nice warm glow that lasts all day.  Kind of like when you drink Irish Coffee in front of a roaring fire.

That many writers give up before experiencing this is a true tragedy.

Also, no matter where you are on your writing career, there’s always another hill to climb.  You sold a story to a magazine?  Great!  Now sell another to a bigger mag.  Published a novel?  Cool, now publish a better one, or sell one to a bigger publisher, or hit the NYT bestseller list.  Already a millionaire bestseller?  All right, but are you a critical darling?  If not, that could drive the next book.

In my own experience, it might have been possible for me to stop when I was just writing for fun – I might not have stopped completely, but I might have just written occasionally for a laugh – but once that first acceptance happened… there was no question of ever giving it up.  Worse than crack, better than sex.

So there’s something.

And finally, there’s the fear of death.  The fact that our writing, even if it was just printed in a photocopied local rag, has the potential to connect with people long after we are gone.  If just one copy of one story survives to be puzzled over by scholars in a few hundred years, it will have left a much greater mark than several lifetimes of accounting or marketing or managing a restaurant.

To incorrectly quote Queen:  Who doesn’t want to live forever?

 

Gustavo Bondoni is an Argentine novelist and short story writer.  His novel Outside explores immortality in a much different and less obvious way than this post.

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10 Reasons Why It Sucks to Be Single, Female and Smart

Note: today’s post is an important milestone for Classically Educated.  It marks the first time that we have a guest columnist on the blog, and I must say that Scarlett has done an amazing job in the face of that pressure.  She definitely fits the definition of a global citizen and polymath, and yet, her vision of the world is so different from mine.  I hope you enjoy the piece as much as I did!  Scarlett will be answering comments, so feel free to chime in!

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Before we begin digging into the main topic of this post, I must notify all readers that these lines are not likely to touch the heart of most men, and probably most women in their 20’s. My point of view is that of a single female, 40+, professional and single by choice… only not MY choice!

My journey up to now has been quite interesting, fun and enlightening, not to mention frustrating and sometimes sad. At this point, if I hear one more well-intended urban legend on how someone like me, at my age just magically found love around the corner and happiness ever after and everything worked out for them, I’ll run to Tibet and hide with the Dalai Lama!

I’ve had my share of relationships by now, the good, the bad and the ugly… The good were in my 20’s, the bad and the ugly in my 30’s. Now I’m facing a new decade, relationship free, with all my choices open some might say, and it sucks BIG TIME!

Let me tell you why:

1)     Most people who learn about your “condition” (being a single female I mean) for the first time will look at you and think (and even sometimes say): you must be a very difficult person, surely something is wrong with you, otherwise you wouldn’t still be single. You can get angry, fight for your right not to be misjudged, hate the person in front of you, but this is a fact: this is a very common perspective where I live, and many other places around the world.

2)     After having been of great value to your loser ex’s lives, you will at some point casually meet them on the street. You will be wearing sweatpants, no make-up, inexplicable hair, and they will be at their best: fit, tanned, looking like a million bucks, and they will be very nice to you and tell you how happy they are, married, with children and great new jobs where they have been promoted. There will be a moment where they will ask about you. Mark my words: don’t answer!! RUN!!!! Otherwise you will end up feeling even sorrier for yourself, because you will confirm to them that YOU are now the loser ex…

3)     Most of your friends are married with children, which makes it hard to have a fluent conversation, in which both parties pay undivided attention to each other for more than … 20 seconds. Here’s a transcript of a typical catch-up conversation with them. In this self-explanatory example we are describing a conversation with a female friend:

–      Friend: So tell me, what’s new with you?

–      You: Well, not so much, works is fine, a bit unstable as usual. I’m starting a new project with… (my friend is talking to her kid now)

–      Friend: Sweetie, please leave that, you’ll break it and you know how mummy will get upset… Sorry, you were saying?

–      You: I’m starting a new project with this new company, and it’s exciting because… (again talking to her kid)

–      Friend: Darling, stop chasing the cat, she is clearly not interested in playing with you, cats are not like dogs sweetie… We’ve already talked about that, remember? Sorry, you were saying?

–      You: This new project…

–      Friend: What new project? Honey! Come back here now! I told you not play with that! Give it to mommy… OK, that’s better, now sit down and play with your ipad. There you go… Sorry, you were saying?

4)     At some point you will start feeling that your life has become a series of New Year’s resolutions and renewed hopes that this year will be your year, the year your life finally works out and you’ll find what you’re looking for…  Trust me there is no such thing as “YOUR YEAR when everything works out”, etc. It’s a myth, like all the already mentioned urban legends you are frequently told about happy people who finally got their lives together. My advice? Don’t expect so much from one year in your life!

5)     You will have tried everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, in an attempt to open to new experiences, meet new people, expand your mind, and … eventually find your soul mate. Here’s a list of EVERYTHING, are you ready? It will take a while … :

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–      You read The Rules

–      You put The Rules into practice and played hard to get and high value woman

–      You tried online dating… more than one site… more than one year in a row.

–      You tried speed dating

–      You tried slowdating

–      You joined new social networks

–      You accepted unknown callers on Facebook

–      You searched for eligible candidates on LinkedIn and tried contacting them with some lame work related excuse

–      You accepted EVERY blind date you were offered, even though most of the times in the past you couldn’t figure out what could possibly go through your mutual friend’s mind to introduce you to that guy

–      You read Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, and you found it enlightening and very true…

–      You read Eat, Pray, Love and started thinking how you could manage to get paid to travel the world, learn to enjoy life, master meditation and fall in love like she did … and then write about it and become a success!

–      You are in therapy for as long as you have memory

–      You read The Secret, and firmly believed it works

–      You’ve watched What the @$%&# do We Know” and learned about quantum physics and how your life is your entire mind’s projection…

–      You’ve explored the possibility you might actually be a lesbian in the closet

–      You’ve considered that your soul mate might just be in front of you all this time and you just haven’t realized it

–      You’ve tried having a friend with benefits on the side while you dated other guys just to reduce your anxiety during the process of meeting someone new (a brilliant concept, I believe, as it works just like eating before going to the supermarket: you make better choices and stick to the list if you go on a full tummy :-D)

–      You’ve tried celibacy for a year (or more) to focus your energies on the present, what you have, your work, your social life, your friends, etc.

–      You’ve considered that YOU are the problem and worked out a plan to improve your rough edges with your therapist

–      You’ve considered that THEY are the problem and stop worrying about changing yourself inside out to fit in with other people’s neuroses

–      You’ve recently learned about a new app called Tinder, works similar to an online dating service, but a bit simpler and on your smartphone. You are thinking about joining it …

6)     Your married friends are jealous of all the freedom you have to do as you please, so whenever you complain to them about your so-called “condition they’ll dismiss you with: “Oh honey, it’s not that great as it looks. It’s bloody hard work every single day, you completely lose your freedom, and your hobby of choice is napping when the kids are with their grandparents…” Need I state the obvious? At least you guys will have someone who will feel guilty enough to visit you when you are in a nursing home!! Jeeez …

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7)     At work you will be given harder challenges for the same pay, because you can keep up with longer hours, and being on call. After all, no one is waiting for you to come back home … (Gulp, handkerchiefs please?)

8)     There will be a very hard moment, sort of a sad penny drop moment – it might probably happen when you are about to reach 40 – when you’ll realize that the marketplace you are dealing with (aka the available options of single/ divorced/ separated members of the gender of your choice) is more of an Outlet experience, rather than a Premium / VIP experience. It will seem as if what you have available for dating are leftovers from a Season Sale… Yeah, life is so not fair, I know…

9)     You will also realize that you have a better chance of a healthy long-term relationship with a pet than with a human being. I strongly encourage you to adopt a pet, it’s great experience. Animals are simpler than humans and they are great company. Also they make you look less crazy when you talk to yourself… If this is your case, I would recommend you choose furry pets, as they tend to be more interactive than reptiles or plants.

10)  Last but not least, if you are smart, you will realize that most of your dates are not as smart as you are. Some of them will realize it and some will not. I would give more credit to the ones acknowledging their limitations, if I were you. In any case, this shouldn’t be a problem as long as you find something else where you actually have limitations (it might be hard to find, I know…) and they are more competent, and that might actually work to your advantage. For example: you are average looking, they are gorgeous; you are nearly broke, they are wealthy; you are lazy, they are hard-working and active… You might also find common grounds where you can connect, such as, you are sad and lonely, so are they!

Bottom line, you’ve probably realized by now that I’m a silver lining kind of person. So, if by any chance you see yourself reflected in more than 2 of these points (or, more precisely, facts of life) join the club! You are not alone, you are certainly as hopeless as I am, but not alone, no siree… Some people say your life begins at 40, so whatever age you are: hang in there, and keep the faith!