Over at Terribleminds today, Chuck Wendig holds forth on the privilege of being a writer. And I’ve got no quarrel with Chuck’s perspective. Compared to some jobs I’ve had – shoveling gravel, cook at a Pizza Hut, night-crew grocery stocker, selling women’s shoes – writing is a pretty cushy deal. Hell, when my grandfather came over from Ireland, alone and 17, his first job was dispatching cows at one of the slaughterhouses on Chicago’s south side, a dark, stinking hell slick with blood and entrails, the sort of place made famous by Sinclair Lewis in The Jungle. They’d lead a beast in and he’d hit it over the head with the sledgehammer. Then another, then another. That was before he joined the army and headed off the bloodier hell hole of trenches of WWI because that was the quickest way to become a citizen. And then he became a Chicago cop, just in time for Prohibition and all that Al Capone business. So yeah, writing? Even my day job writing about taxes and business crap? Things could be worse.
What I wonder about sometimes is does it matter. I mean my day job? I do that right, then maybe one accounting firm picks up a little more business than another. Little hard to puff the old chest out about that too much. My wife? When our son was diagnosed with Autism, she saw what a difference some of his therapists made, so she quit her job at IBM, went back to school, became an Occupational Therapist, and now she spends her days working with kids born with varying disabilities that interfere with their ability to do even simple things that the rest of us take for granted. So I do my job right, and some bean counting firm somewhere makes a little more coin than some other one. She does her job right, and maybe a kid ties his shoes for the first time, writes her name for the first time, is able to feed himself for the first time.
My old man, he was a doctor, and a damn good one. On a pretty regular basis, death would walk in his office door and he’s kick its ass and throw it right back out again.
So yeah, I make a good living, I provide for my family, but it’s hard to see how I’m contributing much to the societal good, at least on the day job side.
But my other writing, my fiction writing? Maybe that’s another deal.
See, a little ways back, I got this box in the mail, a few books I’d ordered through Amazon. Blackbirds by Chuck, Dead Harvest by Chris F. Holm, and The Next One to Fall by Hilary Davidson. Just finished the last of them. Not the best couple of weeks in the world around here for various reasons, work and personal, but I knew that every night I could have a little drink and climb into the tub, and crack open a good book, and all that bad shit would go away for awhile. No matter what else happened, I knew I had that, that the end of the day would be a good end of the day. Sometimes the best part of the day.
I haven’t had Chuck’s success, or Chris’s, or Hilary’s. But I do have one book out there. And who knows, maybe somewhere, somebody’s week sucked. Maybe they have one of those back-breaking, soul-sucking jobs I’ve been lucky enough to avoid, and their weeks always suck. And maybe for a couple of nights, they came home and read my book and that made things a little better for a while. That may not be the balm from Gilead that makes the wounded whole, but that ain’t bad.