By Brian Kaufman
I have a notion that might comfort the discouraged. If you put words to the page, you’ve heard a familiar pointed question. Relatives wonder if your time would be better spent with family. Bosses wonder if you’re as committed to your job as you should be. Friends wonder if you’re fooling yourself.
In the past, the answer to that one pesky question drew a line between someone with talent and someone without. Today, there are publishing venues for anyone with a cupful of skills and a bucketful of persistence. Small press. Blogs. Literary magazines. Webzines and eBooks.
Today, doubters require more information. Do you have a book? Are you self-published?
Search Google for “author advice,” and you’re certain to learn that you should focus on your craft, and when you’re ready, you’ll somehow be published—the literary equivalent of “eat your broccoli.” Once published, the struggle doesn’t end. For authors, marketing is the thorn without a rose.
|Larry Holgerson And Friend|
My anecdote to despair is to think of my literary hero, Larry Holgerson. If you’ve been to the Bean Cycle on First Friday in Fort Collins, you’ve seen him introduce himself as “Booger.” He runs a poetry slam. Every month, the crowd picks a performance poet to receive money from a tip jar. (As Booger says, “once a month, a poet gets paid.”)
Between rounds, Booger performs his own work. Afterward, he posts his favorite performances on Youtube. If you want to see his videos, Google “Booger Poetry.” Make sure you add the word poetry, lest an entirely different set of search links come up. (If you search long enough, you’ll find some of my performances there.)
Booger writes, performs, promotes local poets, and attends other slams to applaud his peers. I’ve met him on the street several times, and he always has a book in his hands. His self-published volume of poetry sits on my shelf next to Bukowski. Booger is not necessarily successful by conventional measures, but he is living a writer’s life. Words are his central passion.
I have a bucket list of writer goals. They are stacked, much like rungs on a ladder, and I will never reach the top (whatever that looks like). But the one goal I aspire to most is to live a writer’s life:
- I write. Every day. I do so because I love it, or because I’ll burst if I don’t. Doesn’t matter. Writers write.
- I read. I have books with me at all times, either in print or on my Kindle. My commute is an hour, so I have audio books queued.
- I support other authors. I write a review blog that promotes small press and self-published authors (https://rabbitholereviews.wordpress.com/). I attend signings, readings, and book events. My shelves are stuffed with books written by friends.
- My wife and I are…book geeks. We own early editions of Sonnets from the Portuguese and Pride and Prejudice and first edition books like Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. We have more bookshelves and bookends than any sane person. When the weather is nice, we pack a picnic lunch and read each other verse by the Poudre River.
That pesky question people ask puts a writer’s life on an inappropriate scale. Writing, like other arts, is a way of connecting with the best people have to offer.
The contemplation of humans at their best is always a worthwhile endeavor. Perhaps the right answer to the loaded question (one I haven’t named, and don’t need to) should be—
— (yes or no), but I’m living a writer’s life. Live for the page.