The Secret Life of Writers


Yesterday I finally sat down and watched Ratatouille. My children have watched it numerous times and I’ve seen bits and pieces, but never the whole thing. The wondrous cook inspires the rat in the movie by his proclamation, “Anyone can cook.” The female cook in the restaurant comes to understand that he meant “not everyone can be a great cook, but a great cook can be anyone”– from any walk of life.  It occurred to me that cooking, like writing, is an art form. Some people study under the tutelage of teachers and hone their craft while others stumble along the self-education path. It isn’t to say that those who learn their craft outside of classrooms do not at times take a class or attend a workshop, but no B.A. in Literature gets attached to their name. The creative arts unlike the scientific fields which require particular studies and degrees for admittance into that intellectual world, are open to anyone with the drive to learn, the determination to improve, and the perseverance to keep at it until they succeed.

A lucky few do indeed possess degrees in literature or journalism and can enjoy the benefit of incorporating writing into the job that pays the bills. I’ve known writers on both sides and can say that neither path guarantees success or better writing. In my observations, writing is one of those careers that rarely allows the creator to devote their entire self to that calling. Bills must be paid, and unless one lands movie deals with your first book, or joins the ranks of journalists, it doesn’t pay well. With time, a prolific author can garner a steady stream of royalties and there may come a time when the day job gets ditched and the desktop at home becomes his or her office.

I’ve known lawyers, librarians, teachers, graphic designers, truck drivers, editors, and journalists, and all shared a secret life. When the day was done they traded the nine to five for late night writing sessions and weekends lost to the blur of time as chapters were edited and pages rewritten. In between tending cell cultures, reading research papers, studying, and synthesizing compounds in my life as a medicinal chemistry graduate student, I eek out pages here and there.

The written word is a thing of beauty and a tool which anyone can weld. For fun and to encourage those who might think that their chosen careers exclude the possibility of writing, let’s take a poll! Anyone who aspires to be published or already has been may contribute.

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One response to “The Secret Life of Writers

  1. Sometimes I think – what if I forego practicality in the name of pursuing my passion, until I am reminded that, yes, bills must be paid. But it’s especially in those moments where I hold onto the possibility that I could (someday, hopefully) combine my passions.

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