Friday, December 17, 2010

A Writer's Apprenticeship

What a year this was! 2010, the year we were all forced to come to terms with the new financial reality (all except Australia, which seems blythely unaware of more than a slight hiccup somewhere over there). We started thinking of new ways to make, save, or hide money, and it's brought out a lot of hitherto unacknowledged creativity, if some of those heart-warming TV stories are anything to go by. Some of us are worse off than others, struggling just to get by, and the rest are worried that it could happen to them. But we've become more understanding, more empathetic, through all of this. All in all, 2010 was a year with little to show for itself. But--the good news is that you don't have to keep up with the Joneses anymore, because they're probably having a rougher time than you are.

In the 70s, I was mad for books and TV programs that featured the Simple Life, whether it was back-to-the-land escapist stuff, decorating on a shoe-string, or how to look fabulous wearing clothes from the thrift shop. It was cool to be green, although I did it because I had to, single as I was with three small children in tow, but the philosophy behind it became something of a mantra, and I try to live this way today, even though it's just me now. So learn to enjoy this belt-tightening. It feels like you've suddenly given up bread, or coffee, or even cigarettes, and you'll have withdrawal symptoms, but you can do it. After a while you'll be lecturing others on how to cut corners, where the best deals are.

Oh, and if you think I'm being patronizing? --I've been there, guys. When my husband left, and the kids were tiny, I  lived at a shelter with them, later used food stamps until I was able to scratch out a living and stand on my own two rather wobbly legs. It was then that I decided that I would never allow myself to be so vulnerable again. I've had some rough times since, but they were my rough times, not the result of someone else's irresponsibility.

And eventually you get through it. It's corny, but you really do appreciate life, and friendship, and all that other stuff, far more when you've eaten tuna and rice three times in a week. (My grown children are still not too fond of tuna and rice.)

So I'm sorry that my posting today doesn't appear much like a writer's blog, but, if you think about it a bit, it really is. All those years of struggle, of worrying about whether or not one of the children was too ill for school, which in turn meant I'd lose a day's work, or simply trying to keep them in shoes (one of the most difficult tasks), was my writing apprenticeship. You write it all down, or go mad--at least, that's how I was. I wrote a lot of black humor, ironically, because that's how I saw the world. But we got through it, and you'll perhaps be surprised that I don't regret any of it. I can write equally about poverty, and comfortable living, because I've known both. And, to this day, I write about relationships, in all age groups, because my friendships over the years have been my saving grace. 

It would have been great if those writings in the lean years had generated income, but I had no idea what I was doing, or even how serious I was about writing. And so I had to reach this grand decade to decide that it's time to do something about it. Notice that I'm not at all impatient. See that I have reached the age of philosophizing. What is, is. You know, a touch of Buddhist thinking goes a long way.

In the meantime, I am over one-third into the fourth novel, Uncharacteristic Behavior. This is my first whodunnit, and at times I wish I hadn't. It's very tricky stuff to write. If you're at all interested, I've added it to the right side bar (click on the cover to read the synopsis). Speaking of covers, do you like my artwork? Of course, it's unlikely any publisher would use it, because they employ their own people, don't they? (And we wouldn't want to take their jobs away from them.)  But I think my pictures are evocative of the subject matter. Anyway, I like them.

Have a great holiday season. Stay home. What's so great about being somewhere else at this time of the year? You need to bum around, flop on the couch, and not bother with makeup. You don't do that at a resort (you'll be lucky) or someone else's place. And you get to sleep in your own lovely bed.

See you next year.