Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I have to go to work

Last week I gave a talk at a local Rotary meeting. The group of about fifteen all work in my city at various jobs: banking, real estate, small business, and consulting are the ones I know of. It's a breakfast meeting at 7 in the morning. It's a good thing I like this group.

I've talked to them before and they were receptive as usual to my topics: the writing process, the state of publishing as I experience it. They know that I also teach and work as an editor at a lab. One woman in particular always asks when my classes are since "some day" she wants to write a book.

Nothing unusual so far. Several people stayed around after my talk AND THEN, one by one they left, uttering some variation of "I wish I were a writer, but I have to go to work now."

Can you hear my growl?

I've heard this all my life. My father was a laborer, the kind who literally dug ditches to support us. A plum job for him was a gig at a construction site where he might have the pleasure of building a stairway, pouring concrete, or putting on a roof.

To my parents, who had six or seven years of school between them, anyone who dressed up before they left the house in the morning was not really working. I understood that—and I've always been able to see the difference between my father's kind of work and my kind of work.

But I don't expect to hear remarks like that from professionals. How can an educated person think it's not some measure of work to write two books a year, for example, or even a half a book a year?

The last woman out the door of the Rotary meeting said, "Once I don't have to work, I'm going to write a book, too."

"Good luck with that," I said.

Does anyone have a better answer that I can use the next time?


Kathryn Lilley said...

Your answer is perfect, Camille! It beats mine, which is "Sorry to hear that." Which is true in so many ways!

Anonymous said...

Maybe you could try, "Oh, so you'll write for free?" See what they say then.
As an aspiring writer, I know how hard it is and the effort put into writing. It's work!

Camille Minichino said...

I love yours Kathryn. Now I can't wait till next time!

Betty Hechtman said...

My father was a writer, so I knew from the time I wrote my first story that it involved work and lots of rejection. I think most people fantasize the words tumbling off your fingers and going directly into print and making you mega bucks.

When my children's mystery Blue Schwartz and Nefertiti's Necklace came out all my friends at the gym thought that meant I was J.K. Rowlings. Like, right.

Anonymous said...

Maybe something like "I miss having a real job where I could do nothing and still get paid."

Camille Minichino said...

Oh ... I like that one!

Anonymous said...

Is the babe with the beachball thinking of what her next book will be about? xoxoxo

Camille Minichino said...

The babe on the beach is me, of course!

Ann said...

Eeesh. S
So many people think that writing is "effortless" (thus, not "real work"). All they need to do is think back to the work involved in writing that 20-pg school essay, and multiply that effort by 150!

Monica Ferris said...

I like Ann's reply: remember that long, tough essay you wrote in high school? Multiply that by 150! I think they think it's not an effort for us. Not that it's not work, but that it's not hard work.

The one that gets me is, "I could write a book, too, if I had the time." What, they think authors are gifted with 28-hour days?