Dear [Loved One]: I am a writer
My name is not Shakespeare, Poe, Bronte, or Rowling, but I am a writer just the same.
I may not be a doctor, lawyer, or executive chief, but my writing – to me – is just as critical. Can you indulge me, just a few moments?
You read articles in People, Sports Illustrated, Time, or Cosmo about the problems with celebrities and their children, the latest athlete arrested for drugs or spousal abuse, the trouble on Wall Street, or how to apply your make-up for a night on the town. However, when I try to talk to you about the article in Writer’s Digest about e-book vs. print book or how to improve my web presence, you give me the hand wave and say, “Who cares?”
You’ll spend a half hour with your nose in a catalog for new clothes, a new computer, or new hunting gear. I’ll spend a little time trying to find that just-right creative writing class or the perfect book for getting my novel to market, and you tell me I’m wasting my time.
I supported you when you wanted to start a small business, when you wanted to get out of a small business, when you wanted to start a new job, or retire. When I have a great idea for a new book or realize the book I’m writing must be shelved, you say, “Oh well” without lifting your head.
I’ve spent hours in the car with you to get to the ball game, watch the ball game, and get home from the ball game. I’ve watched, waved, and smiled as you pull out of the driveway on your way to that week-long hunting or fishing trip or when you were going for a girls’ weekend at the spa. But when I plan a day-long workshop at the local university or a weekend conference in Vegas or Seattle, you ask me, “What about the kids?” “What about dinner?”
I’ve sympathized over your aching joints or shin splints, your aching back, and your stress-related headaches. But when I describe my tired, bloodshot eyes or I’m afraid I might have carpal tunnel, you remind me you told me I shouldn’t spend so much fruitless time at the computer.
I’ve observed as you spend hours watching L&O marathons, night after night of Dancing With The Stars or American Idol or weekend sporting events. But if I ask for one hour of uninterrupted time to hash out a new outline or finish my edit, you complain.
You go online and spend hours sifting through junk email, silly chain mail, and funny pictures. You play farm games, card games, or puzzle through Sudoku. I spend online time with writers, agents, publishers, editors; I learn about writing, how to query an agent, or how to land a publisher. And you wonder why I don’t do something productive.
You regale me with stories of the quirky character at the grocery store, the fabric store, or the paint guy at Home Depot. But if I try to describe one of my book characters, one of my villains, or my protagonist’s triumph, your eyes glaze over.
I agreed when you wanted to upgrade to a $1,000, 54-inch TV, when you wanted another new car or yet another pair of designer leather boots. Yet you scoff when I want to spend $500 on a weekend writers’ conference or a professionally-designed website.
You spend hours tending your garden, washing and waxing your F-150 baby in the driveway, or creating the perfect lasagna. But you tell me I’m wasting time when I struggle over the perfect paragraph, the perfect opening line, the perfect surprise twist.
I celebrate with you when your second cousin in Alaska has her first baby, your aunt and uncle buy a retirement condo in Florida, or your friend in Arizona graduates from ASU. The birth of my novel is barely a blip on your radar.
I have coddled you through the flu, knee surgery, and that pesky rash. I have consoled when you were depressed and commiserated with you over what the boss had the nerve to do on any given day. Yet when I try to tell you how much mind-bending, sleep-losing trouble I’m having with my final chapter, you suggest I just give it up.
You will read a book if it’s on the NYT Best Sellers list (by someone you don’t know and have no hope to ever meet), a tell-all book by a politician you didn’t vote for, or a memoir by your favorite sports figure. Why won’t you open my manuscript?
You read numerous blogs every week about cupcake-decorating, care and feeding of a Labrador, how to paint a War Hammer figurine, or how to grow the perfect rose bush. Why won’t you sign up for my blog?
I hope we never have to talk about the death of my dream. I’m afraid you won’t listen.
Karen was raised by a mother who wanted to be an English teacher and who worked for Merriam-Webster as a proofreader and an aunt who could complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in a day. Their favorite expression was, “Look it up!” Karen reads punctuation and grammar manuals for fun. Her favorite book is the dictionary.