Thursday, January 17, 2013

On writing

I write. That's what I do for a living. I can't believe my luck in getting paid to write. I constantly feel an urge to pinch my arm, wondering if I'm not really dreaming. In work situations I imagine everyone must be secretly jealous of me, since I get to do the most fun part. I've even asked this question: "aren't you all jealous of me?!?!?!??!!?" and they have stared back and replied (in what seems to be all honesty) "hell no, we hate writing".

I thought I would be an art director or perhaps an expert on East Asian issues. For a while I contemplated becoming an archeologist. I'm not cut out for any of these three specialties. The feedback an art director receives proved frustrating for me -so vague and emotional - "I'm not sure how I feel about this, could you make it a bit warmer/cooler/more retro/less feminine etc."

East Asian studies...well yes perhaps. Archeologist? Too impatient.

I've never been one of those people who feels "they have to write or they'd die" or "I have a novel inside, yearning to be told".

No. Writing for me is what dessert seems to be to others - a guilty pleasure, something you perhaps shouldn't have every day but enjoy even more because it's pure frivolous delicacy, removed from the strains of having to be nutritious, wholesome or even filling.

Writing is an excuse to use words like frivolous, a perfect little word that sounds ridiculous and effete when spoken but ok when written, unlike effete which is just that both written and spoken.

I've made a living off writing since I was in my 20s. Like most people who write for a living, I still don't really know how to write and think I don't qualify as a real writer until I publish my first book. Because of this, I buy books on how to write books. I have all of them. If you want to be sure you have a reader for your book or at least someone who'll pay to have it around, write another book on writing, I'll buy it.

One of my books on writing states the following:
"Many writers do little else but sit in small rooms recalling the real world. This explains why so many books describe the author's childhood. A writer's childhood may well have been the last chance of his only firsthand experience." (From Annie Dillard's The writing life).

I think that's sad and hilarious at the same time but thats not how I imagine my writing life (Why imagine, don't I have one at this point? but this is how it is. writing is still in some way about imagining another kind of existence). I want to write like Edith Nesbit whose friends couldn't really figure out exactly when the highly successful author ever wrote. Or like Agatha Christie: "Many friends have said to me 'I never know when you write your books, because I've never seen you writing, or ever see you go away to write.' I must behave rather as dogs do when they retire with a bone: they depart for an odd half hour. They return self-consciously with mud on their noses. I do much the same."




4 comments:

  1. Emi,
    Love your posts. I follow from far, far away in the land of northern California and share your appetite for words and long, solitary runs. Curious what your real-time writing job entails? What sort of things do you write?
    Thanks for the humor and inspiration and random joy!
    ~ Jenny Howard

    ReplyDelete
  2. Då är vi minst två som knarkar skrivarböcker. Har du läst James Woods "How Fiction Works"? Helt makalös.
    /Linda

    ReplyDelete
  3. tack linda!

    jenny! my real-time writing job includes copywriting for various clients, mostly Swedish brands. I rarely work straight for the brands. Instead I work through ad agencies, as a freelance copywriter. I also do some translating and sometimes write articles for magazines and papers. I LOVE MY JOB. might possibly be the happiest person in the world. someone has to be. could be me, I lucked out in so many ways. Think there's room for a bunch of happiest people in the world though. Or most grateful.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the reply, Emi. We need more people like you who can find/recognize/relish happy. (You make a pretty good recruiter!) Best, JENNY

    ReplyDelete

I welcome any comment, so happy to hear from you.