The (Barefoot) Writer’s Life

The writer’s life, we all have an idea of what that means. It has something to do with following a passion for ‘the word’ or self expression and getting paid for it. I think we all know accomplishing that is easier said than done, but in general writers are dreamers, and we hold onto the idea that the writing gods might smile special upon us, if only…. And of course people are out there to feed on that dream or take it down a path that is ‘the writer’s life’ in name only.

I’ve written about the idea of The Extroverted Writer, and I see how this idea gets warped into stuff like The Barefoot Writer’s Club (reviewed here). It’s nice to think that there’s a whole lot of money out there if you only abandon your dream and turn your passion into a business, become extroverted and all smiley. And it’s not exactly untrue. I’ve taken sojourns into technical writing and some other types of business writing where the money was (temporarily) good. I also worked in the academic world where the money isn’t that good and eventually became untenable. All of that can be part of a writer’s life, but it isn’t by itself ‘the writer’s life’.

I think most people who aspire to be writers would find it uncomfortable to be making boatloads of money copyediting like some Don Draper on Madmen or tech writing on wonky government docs. They’d be dreaming of escape. There’s also a sort of sorcery that follows a real writer. It’s as if the whole world gets coloured by what you are working on. When I got into tech writing on government docs, I ended up working on a project related to destroying chemical weapons from World War Two—a project my father had some connection to long ago. I thought I had escaped the clutches of military applications when I got my education in humanities and writing, but somehow I got pulled backwards into a dark place.

I’m not the kind of person who could dig my feet into the sand and be satisfied with a life where I’m paid really well to tinker with other people’s wonky words or find clever ways to sell things. I don’t like vacations. Traveling to someplace to see nature’s beauty or to lend a helping hand is more my style. Just like anyone, I would like to make good money doing what I love, but I’m not so sure the world works that way…especially not for a writer. The writer’s life is a delicate thing, and there’s so many ways to lose sight of it.


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