The other day, I ran into a friend on Scott Street here in Covington, Kentucky where I live. He knows the street I live on and offered his opinion on the area saying I could do better. He also said I could improve my lot in life if I wasn’t a writer.
“Livin’ the dream,” he said laughing. “How’s that working out for you?”
“I like what I’m doing,” I replied.
“You were an accountant for a long time,” he said. “You could get better digs if you went back to doing that.”
“I still do it sometimes,” I said.
“You should be doing it all the time.”
I stood there and smiled at him.
“You just sit around writing stuff all the time?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said, starting to get pissed. “I just sit around all day.”
More was said but I started to not pay much attention to him. I wanted him to get out of my face. Maybe I was wrong, but he was putting down what I do. And what I do is write.
I’ve written about this before, about being a writer, in other posts I’ve written here, in columns, in interviews—hell, I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve talked about this desire to write and sometimes feeling the need to defend myself for what I do.
It started in 6th grade when a teacher encouraged me to write, because she thought I was good at it . . . my parents told me I was wasting my time, that I would never make money doing it . . . a now ex-wife not understanding my desire to write . . . friends thinking my dream to try and make a living at it wasn’t normal. . . for so damn long, so many told me my head was in the clouds. . . and on and on and on. Again, I’ve said all of this before.
And I’ve also said before that when it comes to being a writer, I’m not stupid about it. I know I need to do other types of jobs to help make ends meet. I’m also an editor and yes, after 35 years of doing accounting work, I still can have the accountant’s mind. I still know how to do it.
When it comes to writing, what is this inside me? Why do I keep a journal of things I hear people say? Why do I talk to people I don’t even know? I’ll answer that one right here and now. I want to know what makes people tick and how they view the world around them.
I notice what people do. I pay attention to what they say. I observe their behavior. I observe my own behavior. I’m interested in what’s going on.
So often when I go for walks, my mind is on a story or my mind is on an encounter with someone and what it really meant. Often, it’s on a story and trying to think of ways to tell it in an effective way. My mind is on the process to make the story better.
In less than two years, I’ll be 60 years old. As a writer, I consider myself lucky. I write for CityBeat, I write for Article 25, I write here (of course) and for other publications. I’ve written books and I’m pleased that I’ve won some writing awards along the way—but one thing I’ve never done is write for the sole purpose of making money or winning awards. When that shit happens, a writer has lost their vision, has lost their soul.
I know I’m rambling here—just trying to get it all out. I’ll wrap this up.
Before leaving my friend on Scott Street the other day, he had one last question for me.
“Why do you write?” he asked.
I stared at him for only a few seconds. I knew the answer immediately.
“Because I have to.”
My friend doesn’t get it, but maybe you do.
(Image from Typepad)