The Writing Life

It’s one thing to tell people you like to write. It’s another thing entirely to tell them you’re a “writer.” To illustrate, recently I’ve listed “freelance writer” on my resume. However, I still have trouble telling people that’s what I am. Apparently I’m somewhat embarrassed admitting to a lifestyle that has historically been the butt of jokes, scorn, and ridicule.

What the Stereotypes Say

Writers themselves (ourselves?) make fun of the profession and perpetuate the stereotypes. You know, those tropes about sitting in a secluded place drinking coffee, frittering away time, professing to be “doing” something, but not getting much done at all. Sadly, even if we’re doing stuff, a lot of us hardly make enough money at it to pay the bills. (I’m certainly not there yet!)

Why We Do It

We live a life of poverty to continue a craft that may never yield monetary gain. Yes, it’s true: We could make more mowing lawns or babysitting. And yet, writers will tell you, we continue writing because we “love” it.

How We Do It—For “Fun”

A lot of writers have had to sneak writing into their lives by logging late night or early morning hours. Was it William Faulkner, or  Don Delillo (or maybe even Fitzgerald?), who wrote while manning his position as a night guard in a boiler room? I remember that from one of my lit. classes, but regardless of who it was, the point is that writing takes sacrifice. And I love the story of Samuel Johnson writing Rasselas in “one week of evenings” because he had to pay his mother’s health bills. Interesting that he knew he’d make money at his craft—but maybe times were kinder to writers in the eighteenth century.

Indeed, today some professionals advise that the only way to find enough time is to “steal it” from something else in your life (I remember reading this tidbit in Writer’s Market). But maybe this advice is mainly for those who have to support themselves and their families with other means.

How We Do It—For a Job

For my part, when I taught fulltime, I could never take that advice. Summer breaks were about the only time I could devote to writing—because the rest of the time I just didn’t have the energy (I guess starting a Master’s degree didn’t help).

But maybe the reason I couldn’t write while also holding a separate, fulltime job has more to do with my personality than anything else. Unlike other “side” writers, I found I just couldn’t multitask  without going a little crazy. I’m an all “all or nothing” kind of a gal, so writing sandwiched in between fulltime work responsibilities and family time didn’t work.

For me, then, the only solution was to make writing my fulltime job.

Lucky, blessed me! The Lord has made this possible. Sometimes I actually feel guilty that I can stay home and write. That I can sleep in until whenever (though I try to be up by 6:30 or 7). I feel guilty that I can have a leisurely breakfast and devotional—even exercise if I want—before starting “work” for the day. But, not one to make light of a divine gift, that is what I do most days…and I love it!

Some Differences Between Writing and Other Jobs

I don’t hurry through the mornings like I did when working a “real” job. First, I ground myself in Scripture and prayer and quiet time. Then, I’m ready to write. A pretty cushy life, some would say.

Yes, it is. But I think it has to be this way if I, Lindsey Gendke, hope to produce significantly and consistently. My writing, I like to think, is not top-of-the-head, hurried, or flippant. It is reflective. It grows out of being a slow-moving, reflective person, and also from cultivating slow-moving and reflective habits.

For me

Writing is cultivating quiet, and spending time alone.

Writing is thinking and reflecting, moving slowly and deliberately through life, and refusing busyness and activity just for activity’s sake.

Writing is seeing and saying what non-writers miss.

Writing is shaping reality and fueling imagination.

Writing is intimate—asking the reader to listen, without speaking.

Writing says what one could never otherwise say without interruption.

Writing is becoming bold in way that is impossible when speaking.

Writing is a lifestyle.

I know most don’t have the opportunity to live such a life, and that’s okay. My hope is just maybe, through reading my writing, others can begin to slow down and reflect, just a little more. In today’s hyper-fast-paced world, I don’t see how that could be a bad thing.

To the writers out there: Do you find that writing is more like a lifestyle, or a side activity? Can the two ever really be separated?

*Note: I got my title from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, in case you’re interested in a good book on this topic.