“I can’t remember the last time I had a cold,” I told my friend over dinner the other night.
She looked at me and cocked her head. “That’s because you haven’t been working.”
But I have been, I have been working, I wanted to scream. Maybe if she had said “You work from home,” it wouldn’t have felt so snide, but she thinks writing means I don’t work at all. And that really bothers me.
Whether it’s painting, drawing, photography, or pottery, people tend to see making art as a leisurely activity. Something one does in their free time to unwind, to escape, to make Christmas gifts for their loved ones. Sure there are hobbyists who do just that, but the work you can buy, or see in a museum, or read on your kindle, has taken years of training and perfecting.
A fan once asked Picasso to draw him something on a paper napkin in a bar. Picasso whipped out his pen and quickly handed the patron a work of art.
“Four hundred dollars.” Picasso demanded to his admirer's surprise.
“I just watched you make that. It only took you a minute.”
“No,” Picasso replied. “It took me twenty years.”
It’s so easy to see making art as a function of time. Sure, you think, If I had a few months, I could write a novel too. But the truth is, it’s not just one novel, it’s not two, it’s not even years of creative writing classes, reading great literature, or books on plot and grammar. The difference between a hobbyist and a professional is passion, pure and simple. It’s momentum so strong, it would be impossible for the artist to stop making art.
I have been a writer everyday since as long as I can remember. Just ask my mom how many times she had to stomp down the hall to my bedroom when I was in middle school, because I was obsessed with writing on my clunky typewriter. CLICK CLACK CLICKS filled the ears of my sleeping parents and sisters while I lived out my romantic notions of being a writer.
These days, thanks to Apple, my typing is softer, my writing confined mostly to daylight hours, and my work less covered in whiteout. But the driving force is the same. I live to write, only recently have I begun to tell my friends and family who and what I really am.
After telling a friend about my experience admitting all this to people, he told me that mine was irrefutably a coming out story. When he came out as gay, he experienced all the same placations I did. It’s just a phase, or I wish it was easier for people like you, spread through both our stories like a virus. Though mine was peppered with writing is so therapeutic, isn’t it? and his had the inevitable isn’t there a pill for that? the judgements were oddly similar. That we had made an undesirable choice, and society would frown upon it. But it’s not a choice. He can no more decide to like women, than I can decide to stop writing. To quote Lady Gaga, something I almost never do, Baby, I was born this way.
I waited, I kept it to myself because I didn’t want to risk derision in my fledgling years. I wanted to prove to myself that I was a writer before I was forced to prove it to anyone else. Now that I've finished a book that I'm proud of, that agents want to read, I’m confident that I am a writer.
It's taken years of hard work to get to this place. I know it will take years more before I'm where I want to be. I know that hard work and passion create talent and drive careers forward. And I know that nothing anyone could say, no matter how well-intentioned, or hurtful, or unsupportive could ever ever make me stop.