It’s been quite obvious to me over the years that most people think writers are screwed up people.
While I’ve served on an aircraft carrier, run a locomotive, used a backhoe, driven spikes on a new RR roadbed, delivered papers, and been the voice you hear when you want computer phone support, this doesn’t cover up the fact that I’m a writer. Like Jack Palance in the movie “Shane,” I stop conversation when I come into a room. It’s not because everyone’s waiting for me to say something quotable, it’s because “regular people” see writers as different.
Variously, we are cursed, crazy, bookish, studious, libertine, bohemian, licentious, and ultra-left wing. Storytellers, like magicians, circus people, actors and patent medicine salesmen have always been seen as part of a con or a scam or the occult.
I see myself as none of these things, but it’s hard to shed the images in other people’s mind’s eye.
I see writing as a career like any other. While some writers become rich and famous, that’s not the norm. Most authors cannot earn a living from their novels. Like the rancher, insurance salesman, school principal, truck driver and computer programmer, I’m a working to support my family and maybe take a vacation once in a while.
My father was a writer, so that was an influence, just as the sons of ranchers and salesmen and teachers often step into their parents’ professions. It’s what they know and it’s what I know.
After people work a job for a while, they get better at it, and they learn tips and tricks for making it more meaningful to them in the context of their lives. Some people hang out in shops and break rooms; I hang out in libraries.
People in all professions believe that–even though they need to earn a living–the work they do is beneficial to the world, probably not the entire world, but to those they meet day to day. A friendly truck driver will stop when s/he sees your broken down car on the shoulder of an Interstate. A writer disseminates information and ideas s/he hopes will be of value, practically and/or spiritually.
My novel The Sun Singer is a case in point. First, I was writing what I know: mountains, hiking, climbing and a touch of mysticism. Such things can be entertaining and give readers a few hours of fun. But I also saw a deeper message in The Sun Singer, a path toward personal transformation that readers could either accept or reject without losing track of the entertainment value of the adventure story. I’m not a guru and wouldn’t want to be one. I don’t have the cosmic scheme of things figured out. But maybe I can say a few things that will help others to figure it out and get as close to the truth as they can. That’s everyone’s calling, isn’t it?
We’re all trying to make the world better while keeping food on the table. The work is practical and spiritual. I try to live that in my life as a writer because it’s what I fell into, or possibly what I was led into. My best friend from high school fell into being a captain of tall ships that sail around the world. What a unique profession that is, yet he sees me as the crazy one. Go figure. He sails and I write. It pays the bills and makes for a wonderful life.
Coming February 19th
I‘m pleased to announce that Vivian Zabel, author of “Prairie Dog Cowboy,” will be here on February 19th to discuss her new book. What a wonderful story it is!
Four of the people (within the U.S. and Canada) who stop by and ask a question or make a comment on my blog and/or the other blogs she is visiting will receive a canvas tote bag with Zabel’s 4RV Publishing logo.
While she’s here, please don’t act like writers are screwed up. Play like we’re a couple of ranchers.
Copyright (c) 2009 by Malcolm R. Campbell