Search the internet for American author Ernest Hemingway and you’ll find a copyrighted quote about writing and how all you need to do is to sit at a typewriter and bleed.
If only today’s literary life was that simple more individuals would be willing to sacrifice their lives for what? Fame? Fortune? Immortality?
Dream on! None of the above!
I’m not the first to question the value of a career in the arts nor will I be the last. My reasons are my own. I love my quiet space and in some small way I hope my inner peace will transcend into some meaningful dialogue. When I slip into that mystical zone called “writing”, housework hides beneath the cobwebs and even my gardens succumb to nature’s playful ways. You could call this chronic neglect of chores procrastination!
I call it prioritization for activities that stimulate the mind. Writing and writers matter even in this noisy-extroverted-technical-money-famefocused-socialmedia-obsessed world. Some days I feel like a poetic dinosaur lost in a jungle, a maze of twisting vines and over-crowded trees. All these voices clamoring to be heard: some are mean-spirited and discouraging; others are more nurturing and supportive. Frankly, I’d sooner be wooed by the sun than the wind. I can’t stand this hurtful “gushing of blood”, no matter where it comes from.
Have you ever been hit on the head with an axe?
In Newfoundland, 54 libraries are expected to close over the next two years. Seriously? Libraries are a hub for face-to-face community discussions.
Due to fair dealing interpretations, several Canadian educational institutions have stopped paying royalties to authors for the copying of published work. Another whack!
Last year, The Writers’ Union of Canada released a document Devaluing Creators, Endangering Creativity. Doing More and Making Less: Writers’ Incomes Today. See my earlier blog post here. Based on the union’s survey, 81 percent of the respondents said their writing income fell below the poverty line, that the median net income from writing was less than $5,000, while the average income from writing was $12,879.
Ouch, there’s that axe again.
Sometimes negative circumstances cause a paradigm shift and the creative process slips in a hole like a seed waiting to be watered again. A writer can bleed only for so long. This spring I took some time to spend with family. In my travels, I rolled along like a pebble tossed into the waves and later took a reflective break on a park bench. I needed a change: a housekeeper, a gardener, a personal assistant. Nope, I knew it wasn’t going to happen, not on my salary.
A few days ago, I yanked a strand of outdoor Christmas lights from our front bushes. A muddy film clung to the glass bulbs and I could almost hear the neighbors cheering as I also plucked the meter-high thistles from the flower beds. A June rain had softened the soil and the moist air cleared my head. Enough was enough!
Writing will always be one of my priorities. Words fuel my existence but burnout for writers is common.
I wish I could provide statistics but even in my circle of writing friends, three have already announced a summer hiatus from writing. In a competitive, cut-throat, blood-shedding environment is there no wonder that creative beings are feeling rather anemic? Organizers of writing groups and reading series plus volunteer editors of magazines and journals often step back to recharge batteries or to cut expenses. Some lose the battle like Other Voices in Edmonton. Descant in Toronto stopped publishing after 45 years. On June 28, The ArtBar Poetry Series in Toronto will close its doors and officially retire.
And yet despite all the negativity, the rejections, and disappointments, writers continue to write. New on-line magazines like Cede Poetry in Vancouver are created and new reading series like “Couplets: Poets in Dialogue” in London, Ontario are born. Hope prevails!
On June 2, The Writers Union of Canada issued a press release urging readers to support and celebrate authors and to participate in the #WhyWritersMatter campaign. See additional details here.
To me, writers open doors and windows to new worlds and ideas. They are the history recorders and thought provokers. They are the philosophers and change makers.
What are you doing to show #WhyWritersMatter?
When was the last time you purchased a book? Supported your local library? Attended a reading? If you love books, make it your priority to write a review for Goodreads, Amazon.ca, or one of the literary journals. It may just be the words of encouragement and support that an emerging or experienced author needs. Recharge or ignite her literary spark. Nurture the creative seeds buried deep within the earth.
Although I temporarily stopped writing to declutter my yard-house-desk, I also plan to spend the summer reading, relaxing, and celebrating other poets and authors through my blog.
As a writer, I still believe in miracles, those thought-provoking words that pull people and nations together.