“Writing for a living is a privilege, not a God-given right, as opportunities are few, but sought after by many. There are years of rejection that serve as a crude winnowing process, after which those left standing are those who simply must write.”
Many moons before even the possibility of a writing career had crossed my mind, I had a fascination with the written word and the power that it contained. This ranged from the subtle brilliance of Calvin and Hobbes to the science fact of Michael Crichton. At the time, I had envisioned employment in accounting or architecture. Later, I considered a career in psychology. And yet, here I am, so many years later, working full-time as a self-employed professional freelance writer.
From creative expression to freedom of schedule, it’s been said that I’ve got it made. The journey certainly has not been easy and I don’t anticipate it’ll be a casual stroll through the park moving forward either. The thing is, even if writing never earned me a single penny, I’d still do it. I feel compelled to do it. Even before I wrote professionally, I did so as a hobby through a newsletter and later a crude website.
Perhaps this is the point of the quote from author Richard Ford cited above. He has been able to enjoy quite a bit of success as a novelist and short story writer. Richard Ford is best known for penning the “Frank Bascombe” books The Sportswriter, Independence Day, The Lay of the Land, and Let Me Be Frank With You. While the mechanisms of fiction and non-fiction writing can differ, the experience of the writer can be very similar. We just have to do it, regardless of monetary gain or the number of readers we attract.
Of course, we still need money to keep the lights on. And more money makes it far easier for us to have more lights. We fight for that opportunity at illumination every day, though we can then lose sight of what it was like living in the darkness. “Privilege is invisible to those who have it,” as Dr. Michael Kimmel once put it.
I recognize that my position as a freelance writer, despite its challenges and limitations, is one of privilege. But it’s also one birthed from my blood, sweat, tears, rejection suffered, steadfast persistence and modest triumph. For that, I am grateful.