It happened again this week. Two (actually it was more than two, but we won't get into that just now) people asked, actually demanded, that I do something related to our children because I don't have a "real" job with "real" hours and am therefore like an intern sitting around an emergency room just waiting for a patient to walk in so I can make myself productive. The people in question, who have much more "important" jobs, thank you very much, are not afraid to smirk whenever my work comes up, or draw a contrast with their jobs, which they consider far more important. It's got me thinking, is it just me or are writers considered non-workers?
Tough question. I remember reading years ago that no less a celebrated author than Anne Tyler was approached by a fellow mother at the school gates who inquired when she was going to get a "real" job. If there's no respect for a writer like Tyler, what hope is there for someone like me? And how does this correspond to all those surveys that show, particularly in America, that the majority of people actually believe that the only thing standing between them and a completed manuscript is a lack of time?
I've been pondering this question, and come to the conclusion that the majority of people do not consider writing more than a hobby. It's something that those not inclined to "really work" pursue and, if lucky, turn into a bit of hard cash. Recently I went to a newly formed writing group near my home that was composed of many who claimed an interest in becoming a published writer, then proceeded to bash whole segments of the published writing community, such as poets and romance novelists like yours truly. Apparently seeing one's work in journals and anthologies, and collecting royalties for romance, are not "real work" to these folks. (This is news to me.) No, it's a set type of publication, with certain types of recognition, or bust. This attitude reminds me of the women assuming I can do whatever they need done, whenever, because I'm "not really working".
So what to do? Write! Write some more! Look to people like Kay Springsteen and Kim Bowman, writers who've created terrific work enjoyed by many readers, and received various accolades in the form of sales and awards. And then get out your pen or your laptop and get to work, and remind yourself: you are at work, and you deserve a little respect.