Thursday, May 23, 2013

L.I.T.E.R.A.L. #6: Whose Career Do You Wish You Had?

L.I.T.E.R.A.L. is an occasional blog meme/writing prompt for authors hosted at Indie Books. Indie Books created it to serve as a support group for participants of the Author at Once workshops, but they welcome all writers (from anywhere in the world) who’d like to respond to their writing prompts!

Here's the question from When we visualize our success as writers, we usually have "career pegs." Whose career do you wish you had?

My answer: 

Three Js

My first reaction was: J.K. Rowling.

J.K. Rowling reads from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone at the Easter Egg Roll at White House.
Photo by Daniel Ogren
Why? Because she's rolling in money due to a fascinating story that she genuinely loves. But then I'll have to recant my choice. Precisely because of her fame and success...I don't want to choose her career as my only peg. I need to remind myself that fame and success are nice byproducts but not at all the motivation for my writing. And I bet...neither was it J.K. Rowling's motivation either. Like many other writers...she probably just wanted to be read. And not just by her kids or her family or her neighbors. She wanted Harry Potter to reach every child. I guess...maybe that side of her career can be my peg.

The next writer that came to mind was Jane Hirshfield.

In "Come, Thief," Jane Hirshfield reflects on the landmarks of a life, including the fact that she found true love at age 49. Photo by VOA - A. Philipps.
Why? Because she's a deeply meditative poet. That's what I want my writing to be: a reflection, a mindfulness of my life, of the lives around me, of creation. She not only has a deep passion for writing but also for biology and physics. While her work has roots in Zen and Buddhism, she doesn't want to be stuck in a label. She has been quoted to say: “I always feel a slight dismay if I’m called a “Zen” poet. I am not. I am a human poet, that’s all.” I truly admire her work and I want that kind of life: a life of writing poetry, studying poetry and writing about poetry. That's not what my life is like right now...but it's a career that I could imagine for myself. From Hirshfield, I take the discipline of mindfulness and craft.

But in the end, I'll have to refer to another writer that I've never read: Julianna Baggott...only because she writes so poignantly about being a writer, a mother, and a professional. She says: "Put your elbows out, protect your time. "

This is Julianna Baggott, pen names: Bridget Asher and N.E. Bode. Picture from 
She talks about the brass tacks that come with writing: discussions with a partner, grappling with limited resources, going at it with "efficient creativity" (i.e. writing while nursing while vacuuming). Just because she captures so much of the difficulties that come with writing and bringing up children and working...I think I'll go buy her book, Pure. She admits to raising two children under poverty level at some point in her life. This girl has got guts! From Baggott, I'll take the strength, the perseverance, and the cross between optimism and realism that got her to where she is.

Career....calling...I don't know what the right word is. I look at the lives of each of these women (whose names all coincidentally start with J) and I can see some facet of their writerly lives that inspires me.

Once again...thanks for the question Indie Books and These are great reflections for me and a good way to inspire myself and others to keep writing.

And a big Thank You to Indie Books for featuring my poetry book in their e-newsletter today! :-)


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