Robert Skrezyna, Professional Something
(originally written in Nov. '14)
I think I'm letting my mind run a little too far away from center. I mean this is the best way possible but it's also a slight to my concentration. I'm not going to hit my NaNoWriMo word count this year (and I'm fine with that - see last post), I haven't used any of my typewriters in weeks and including this post, the last and the few thousand words I've written for NaNo this month I think my total creative output for the month of November is around 10,000 words. For someone who fancies themselves a writer this is just wrong.
Or is it?
I'm not going to ask that dumb question of "what makes a writer a writer?" because I do not believe there is one simple answer. I do know however that the number one way to be considered a writer is to, you know, actually write something. Regardless of what you're writing simply imparting the words to the page counts as output in my book. Novels count. Short stories, too. Blog posts even. (I'm still on the fence about Tumblr posts...) But you - and I, for that matter - have no business calling yourself a Writer with a capital "W" unless you get the work on the page.
I've been a collector of typewriters for years. While I love my MacBook Air I tend to gravitate toward one of my many machines when I need to get some "serious" writing done. No Internet or Facebook or Twitter. No distractions. Just me and the keys and sometimes frustrating change of the page to a fresh sheet of 20 bond. And before you ask, YES, I understand how what I've just said could very well be taken as pompous or, dare I say, hipster. I'm alright with either. Again, just so long as I'm getting the words to the page.
Ah. But therein lies my current dilemma. I haven't done this. Not on 20 bond or on an LCD screen. I haven't even used my fancy fountain pen (Lamy Safari - writes like butter...but, you know, in ink). As I've said before I could write this off as "new baby fatigue" but that seems just too easy. It's also not accurate. Yes, I'm tired. Yes, we have a new baby. And yes, I have a Vitamin D deficiency which is causing lethargy. But what it all really comes down to is me making the choice to do something else other than writing.
As a Writer with a capital "W" (which is not only how I identify but also how I have it printed on my business cards) I should want nothing more than to sit at a desk or wherever else I can and impart my sage and well-intentioned thoughts to paper. The world needs this stuff! Maybe they don't know it yet, but they do. And it's my job to give it to them.
Okay. Then why am I not?
I recently turned 35. Given my past of alcohol and drug abuse this feat was met with more than a small amount of wonder by not only myself but several friends and family members. In fact it wasn't until one of them said something that I really started thinking in ernest about that age. 35. Thirty five. Thirty. Five. 3-five. Three-5. No matter how I type it it's still a bit frightening. I feel as though my brain has been frozen in Carbonite at the exact moment I realized that, when taking my parent's ages when they passed, I have now PASSED MIDDLE AGE. My mom was 64 when she passed, my father was 66. While there is nothing to say I'm going to die at one of those ages, I think it would give anyone pause to consider that they have already lived half their life.
The first question that popped into my head at that point was pretty straightforward, at least ostensibly: what do I have to show for it?
I have my kids, of course. They are by far the most important and amazing thing I'll ever produce. I have a wife who loves me in spite of myself and her better judgement. I have a day job that pays the bills (for the most part). I have a mortgage and car loans and all the trappings of "responsible adulthood". That said, I have always eschewed the idea of having a career. I've long railed against it actually. What's wrong with a good old American J-O-B? Why can't you just go to a job, do your best while there for your forty hours (and hopefully some overtime as Christmas approaches) then go home and be with your family? Why the huge and powerful push to meld the two or worse, neglect the family in the name of a larger paycheck? It just never made sense to me. There should be a clear separation between how you earn your money and what you do with that money (i.e. support your family, provide for their needs as well as wants).
Lately I've been rethinking this. What's so bad with wanting to be associated with your line of work? Assuming it's a good association it could only help in the short term as well as the long, right? And more to my point: isn't that what I've been doing since the day I stamped my business cards with the word "WRITER" after my name? What the hell have I been thinking all these years?
I'll tell you what I've been thinking: my line of work is what I get paid to do.
Your line of work can be whatever the hell you want it to be.
Do I get paid to write? Not usually. I have a small business on the side (Word Rebel Ink) and I freelance a bit but never enough to pay the bills. And there - right THERE - has always been my stumbling block: I've only ever equated a station in life to something for which you draw a paycheck. So long as I believe this I'll be stuck. Doomed to a life half-lived at best and never truly lived at worst.
By day I'm a mild mannered warehouse supervisor for a mid-sized industrial supply company.
By night (and morning and weekend) I'm a superhero to my four kids.
I've always been a dad first and a [fill in the blank with whatever service I provide to pay the bills]. And somewhere after dad and the fill-in-the-blank and son and husband and brother and whatever else I was a writer (small "w").
It's time to be a Writer.
I already claim to be and have for years. What I have failed to realize - much to my surprise at age thirty five - is that I've actually been one for years. I've probably been one longer than I even know.
If I have indeed lived for more than half of my expected years and have nothing to show for it in the way of my passion for writing and creating stories and characters then, to paraphrase a book I read once, I better get busy living or get busy dying.
In my experience writing makes me feel alive.
Even if it didn't, it sure beats the alternative.