Years ago a writer once said to me and a group of fellow aspiring/frustrated fiction writers that writing is an act of rebellion against conformity. We go into a room alone and try to recreate the world.
This is true in as much that we need to write stories that cut across the grain of everyday life. Our characters do not and should not merely wake up and go to work, which reminds me of something I heard in a recently broadcast interview of Updike. He said that he sees great beauty in the simplicity of ordinary people and the lives that we all lead. I agree, but when you look at his stories they are eminently relatable because we can see ourselves in the characters he creates and the situations he places them in even as these people are made by his hand to be uncomfortable, to have a sensation of yearning that is not easily quenched. His short story "A&P" is a great example of that (and one of the stories that led me to be a writer) because the lead character, a young man at work, is mesmerized by three very beautiful young women who in their barefeet and bikinis express a sense of irreverent freedom that causes the main character to yearn for that same sensation. It leads him then to quit his job, which is ultimately a somewhat self destructive thing to have done.
So we go into our writer's rooms and seek to be nonconformists in what we write and to do so in a manner that in effect creates art. We do this willingly even though we also know that the chances for succeeding in terms of making a living doing this thing we love are very few. However, we are impelled by an unstoppable force that continually drives us forward. To do this requires a great degree of bravery.
How many of us have forgone financial security? How many have risked poor credit reports? How many struggle to pay our own health insurance premiums? How many of us have put off travel or any other activity in order to continually juggle the very many balls that add up to a writing career?
As I think about it all, the sacrifices and the risk taking, and the very complicated juggling act that we perform I am reminded of a type of juggler that used to be on the Ed Sullivan show. Perhaps you remember the fellow with the sticks that he balanced spinning plates on. He would start with one and then two while fast paced music played behind him. Eventually he reached the point where he had to go back to respin failing plates so they won't fall even as he is balancing more plates on more sticks. Eventually and unavoidably one and then two and then a few more come crashing down. He would push his ability to maintain spinning plates just past the point where he could tend to them all and keep them afloat.
I often feel like that as a writer. I have plates spinning, but I need to keep putting more in the air. I know many of them will crash, but perhaps a few of them will keep spinning and maybe earn me a little something from the audience that exists for my efforts.
I hope so anyway.
Causes James Buchanan Supports
Expanding health care in the US, ending war as a viable tool of foreign policy, and issues related to social justice in general.