the Lonely Profession

26 Jan

I never believed the phrase “Writing is a Lonely Profession”. Every time I sit at my computer to start writing, I gently place my fingertips on the keyboard and instantly feel like a pianist. I never felt as though I were writing sentences: they were harmonies. The syntax has rhythm – rhythm drummed by vocabulary, punctuation and syllables. Choice of words is like plucking fruits from a tree and biting into them: fresh, refreshing, exotic, and vitamins for the text. We harvest them carefully into the text, well aware that we can string their roots together in the subconscious of the narrative – or perhaps let it grow into a tree, pluck its fruit and feed it to the protagonist to keep the story going.

The metaphor is a soft melody that is lost like a wisp of fog: now in your hand, now it’s gone. A simile is a reflection: a river that makes its way between your words, and when I stare into it deeply, I lose myself in the reflection and let the simile carry me to more metaphorical shores, where everything is possible.

Your protagonist is the main theme of the composition, now in the shy minor key, stepping carefully, always looking back – now in the boastful major key, rushing forward, sword in hand, to the battlefield, her heart bursting with the climax of the story.

We create worlds we understand, worlds we’d rather live in, and go live among people we find more interesting. We create fantastic characters known only to us, and guard them jealously in words. We tell other people about them but we are the only ones who experience adventures with them, who fly with them, protect them, punish them, ravish them, bewitch them, hate them – and then protect them from ourselves.

“Among such company,” I thought, “Who could ever be lonely?”

But last month, I puzzled for hours over Hunter S Thompson’s simple acknowledgement in his novel Hell’s Angels:

To the friends who lent me money and

kept me mercifully unemployed.

No writer can function without them.

I think I am only just beginning to understand the full extent of merciful unemployment.

The war cry of the writer isn’t when you quit your job, you write all night and you start pestering publishers with manuscripts. It isn’t highlighting the addresses of literary agents with a bright pink pen, or living in a literary haze for weeks, absentmindedly bashing into walls.

The real predicament of the writer is to remain a writer.

Writing with an ocean of doubt rising around you, filled with sharks of Days Gone By, Still No Results. To not take on the odd job – useful as it may be when you’re treading the steadily rising tide and have a distinct interest in keeping your head above water.

To fight for the one thing you believe in, and keep at it, though it may show no results for years and you keep returning to an empty apartment with nothing to show for all your hard work except a bruised pen, a table and even more work to come. To learn to keep your doubts on a leash, condemn the seductive distraction in the sexy red dress and feed it to whatever other monsters you may be keeping in the basement of your soul. And stay focused on your actual goal of becoming a published writer.

The Lonely Profession is when you’re in a room full of fearful beasts of doubt and alluring distractions from your goal  – and then you realise you’re actually alone in the room with yourself.

O ye writers, let the voyage begin!

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.

But do not hurry the voyage at all.
It is better to let it last for long years;
and even to anchor at the isle when you are old,
rich with all that you have gained on the way,
not expecting that Ithaca will offer you riches.

Ithaca has given you the beautiful voyage.
Without her you would never have taken the road.
But she has nothing more to give you.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca has not defrauded you.
With the great wisdom you have gained, with so much experience,
you must surely have understood by then what Ithacas mean.

-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven

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One Response to “the Lonely Profession”

  1. Rachel January 26, 2011 at 2:35 am #

    Thank you for this Ritti…. food for the mind and the soul!

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