A Writer’s Diary – Page 9

Is a novel a product like a vacuum cleaner? If one invents a new vacuum cleaner then markets it to make an honest living, he is hailed as an inventor, entrepreneur, an example of American free enterprise, a beneficiary of the homemaker. If a writer self-publishes his novel it is referred to as “vanity publishing”, yet he has done the same thing the other guy did. There is a double standard here that should not exist.

The writer has produced a product that can entertain, enlighten, encourage, and inspire. That, to me, is worth as much as getting up dust and fur balls. Why do people see it differently? Shouldn’t a writer reap financial reward for his work as much as any other workman? If he does not, does he have any right to concern?  I realize that “concern” is light years from a nervous breakdown, alcoholism, drugs, or suicide, however. Perhaps the general public attaches such aberrant behavior to writers and other artists and sees them as self-absorbed, arrogant, and dangerous to public morals. Still, why should a writer be indifferent to his own work? If he is, why did he do it to start with?”

The problem may be that the very successful writer earns more than most people and has acclamation (ostensibly for doing something “fun”). Many hate their jobs and earn chicken feed. I did. Then there is the feeling that we all had to write term papers and essays in school (no pay, no acclamation). Can it be that much harder to write a novel? Is there an envy of writers with a subtle attempt to get even? Maybe it is the term “gift” that gets under people’s skin. I believe everyone is “gifted” by God in some way, but society has long made an issue out of gifts in the arts.

I recall all those biographies of famous people you used to see in the movies. They always were portrayed as suffering as much as succeeding. If they did not suffer sufficently in a very visible way they would probably be hated and nobody would want to make a picture about them (or see one). Suffering seems to even up the score. I have dealt with the spiritual and psychological critiques I received about my magnificent obsession as best I could and have reaped some benefits from confronting faults in myself. But there is a lingering feeling in me that they were not always said for my benefit as much as for some smug self-righteousness in the ones who offered them.

Some have been brought up to believe that it is selfish to even have a wonderful dream, much less attempt to realize it. They seem to feel that painful, wearisome pointless toil is God’s will for fallen man. Once, many years ago,  I was asked what I really wanted in life. My guard was not up and I told her I wanted a fine career as a writer and artist and that I wanted to marry a wonderful man who was madly in love with me and I with him. She looked at me reprovingly and said, “But that is what worldly people want. The Christian life is one of sacrifice and self-denial.”

Certainly sacrifice and self-denial are elements of the Christian life. We are sometimes called on to do what is right in God’s sight (but difficult) rather than what may be comfortable at the moment. Still I do not believe that is all the Christian life is supposed to be. We see verses such as “God delights in the prosperity of His people” or “the abundant life” or “peace and joy that passes understanding” or “no good thing will He withhold” or “He works all things together for the good of those who love Him and are the called according to His purposes” . I think those verses and many more like them must be factored in as well.

If someone is going through a period of sacrifice and self-denial, however, it is easy to have contempt for someone who (evidently) is not. In my own case, I was going through intense anguish at that time over my father’s alcoholism, praying for the salvation and healing of others, etc. If I had said this, she would doubtlessly been impressed. I often kept those darker things to myself and tried to keep conversation with others light (unless I digressed into my obsession with getting published). That made me an easy mark.

I have, since, become more cautious when divulging my feelings to others. I have sometimes even begun with a disclaimer on the assumption that I was going to be interrogated, srutinized for character flaws and otherwise trashed. – That, however is too defensive, and I am once more trying to be more spontaneous  and take what comes. Also, I am more careful of the friends I keep. There is a difference in Christians who are there to help with meakness and love and those who are trying to make some point  due to some chip on theirown shoulders. – Be cautious.