First, all those other friends. The ones who mean well, share our beer, give us advice about … life.
I spent the evening with my best friend from high school. It was a treat to be with someone I have known for so long that the conversation was easy, the mood relaxed, the outcome predictable, the companionship welcome. I don’t often have the time.
For the past two years or so I have been immersed in the writing world and I haven’t pulled my head out for very long. Writing words everyday, preparing manuscripts for agents, entering contests, discussing writing with other writers, building a tribe in my world all takes extraordinary time and energy. On top of just living life. So I haven’t engaged with my friends outside that world much.
We met up because I had some issues I needed help with, things I didn’t trust anyone else in the world with, things I could only discuss with her. They weren’t great things. Some of them were pretty sad. Others were a frustrating mix of “I don’t know what to do.” She didn’t either for most of them … but she helped me settle on a game plan. That was important and … enough. It helped.
But what didn’t help was her insistence that writing was somehow not a professional job, that I was merely dabbling in a hobby. I didn’t correct her. I tried to explain. It struck me that of all my friends, she was not the one I expected to hear that from. She kept insisting I needed to get a “real” job, that I was a professional and needed to work in my field.
Maybe, monetarily, right now that would be nice … but …
The implication of it was that writing wasn’t a job somehow. I tried to wrap my head around it, to find a way to explain what I do, but she dragged the conversation back to my “other” life every time. The Erin she knew lived in big cities, worked as an architect, flitted around the world, ate supper at 11 pm, attended world premiers of movies and fashion, got invited to art shows in London and New York, and never rolled up the sidewalks anywhere. “You can sleep when you die” was my motto. So I can see where she was coming from.
But the Erin now isn’t that any more (except for the sleeping bit – I still don’t sleep). I’ve sailed some rough seas, fought a war or two or twenty, had the rug pulled out from under me half a dozen times.
Somewhere along the way, I exchanged my champagne flute for a glass of iced tea and some homemade tortillas. The world premiers took a back seat to raising my kids. Supper is most often somewhere between 3 and 7 depending on the day. And I haven’t been on an airplane in over a decade.
Now I write. And it’s hard work. I work harder now than I ever did as an architect. So the implication that it’s somehow NOT a job, floored me.
Second, it also pointed out the purpose of why I’ve fought so hard every day to build a tribe of fellow writers. They might not be my best friends, hell sometimes we may not get along at all, they might not know I ever got drunk with a Prince or held the fate of a $2 billion project in my hands, I may never have shared the thrill of attending opening night of Les Miserables in London with them or eating gelato while walking along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea …
… but they get that I’m a writer. They understand what that means.
Walking this path of writing is not for the faint of heart. It’s hard. Mind-numbingly so at times. And I need other writers I can talk to, commiserate with, share with, critique with, grow with. I need them in all their flawed, dramatic, egocentric, awkward ways.
I am a writer. It’s what I do and who I am.