Jul 14, 2011

Out of the writer's closet

I used to be a professional writer. For 13 years, I was a journalist and covered arts/entertainment, education, health and features for newspapers in four states.
Then print media collapsed. When my employer announced cutbacks, eventually shedding 70 percent of us, I took a buyout and decided to switch careers. My goal was to finish grad school by the time my youngest started kindergarten this year and get a job teaching.
Mission accomplished. But the economy still sucks and there are no jobs in my district.
When people ask what I do, I hate saying I’m an unemployed teacher. I also cringe at saying I’m a writer because then they ask what I write, which leads to the confession I’m unemployed at that right now, too.
The fact is, I’m totally employed by writing. I’m just not getting paid yet. And I struggle with confessing something that maybe, just maybe, will never happen. This makes me think of the early auditions of American Idol, the ones filled with delusional people who have no idea they can’t sing. They open their mouths and liquid garbage streams out. When they’re told this by the judges, many of them rail, sob, and deny the simple truth they have no talent.
They’re NEVER going to be singers. It doesn’t matter how much they practice or how many voice coaches they have. The gene pool skipped them.
And I wonder if I’m one of them. Am I just as deluded to think my style, my voice, my story is unique enough to catch an agent’s attention? Yes, I need to persevere. Yes, there will always be somebody who thinks I have what it takes…but I wish there was a litmus test for this business.
In the meantime, I’ll start freelancing again after a 15 year hiatus. I made money doing that before; I can do it again. Nonfiction remains an old friend while Fiction, that skittish bitch, controls the popular crowd I still want to join.
Whether she ever accepts me or not, I cannot stop writing. I want to stop - I’d exchange my miniscule talent for something else in a heartbeat.
A voice for singing, maybe?
My name is Melodie Wright and I’m a writer.


Nancy Thompson said...

Oh Melodie, I know just how you feel, though I can't even say I ever freelanced. I'm just a neophyte at this writing gig. I have no illusions, but I do have dreams, and though I would likely be happier if I could give up on that dream of landing an agent and getting published, I'm afraid I just can't let go. It's a maddening dilemma, to be sure. But know you are in good company.

Emily Rittel-King said...

I have thought EXACTLY the same thing about myself!!!!!!! (Lots of exclamation points to prove my point.) Whenever I watch American Idol or Top Chef I wonder if I'm going to be one of the many writer rejects. But you know what? It's good to wonder if we're "enough" because that keeps us humble. It also inspires us to work harder. And the best part is, when we make it, we are grateful for every drop of sweat and the bucketful of tears. Keep writing, Melodie! You've got what it takes: you have heart.

Melodie said...

Nancy and Emily - it is the company on this journey that keeps me going. :)

Angie Cothran said...

Even though they can't sing don't you admire their passion? The great thing about writing is that if you want to learn you can study and grow...and grow...and grow. I really think that anyone with a passion for writing can be great. Singing isn't the same--you've either got it or not.

I love that the end of your post sounds like an AA introduction :)