In yesterday’s mail, I received a check from a magazine for a poem of mine they had published. Something all writers hope for. Something all writers are grateful for because it is a form of validation. Someone, somewhere liked something I wrote, decided others would like it too, and respected me enough as a writer to pay me as a professional. I can’t complain, right?
Well, sort of.
Here’s the thing. I wrote the poem in the late 1990’s. It was accepted for publication in 2006. It was published in 2013. I got the check for it in March of 2014. Even using my poor calculation skills, that’s not a very good hourly rate.
In a recent email from one of my writing friends, she shared the exciting news of an upcoming publication in a magazine similar to the one my poem appeared in. I sent hearty congratulations and we celebrated as best two friends separated by about a thousand miles can do. I did feel though that I should give her fair warning that she might not see the results of her hard labor any time soon. But she’s done her research; we’ve both been at this awhile, so neither of us expect fame and glory. Both of us have day jobs. Ones that pay the bills, put food on the table, and allow us to have computers and ink pens to write with. We have spent much of the winter grumbling to each other about dragging ourselves out the door, down our respective snowy hills, to drive the treacherous roads to work, when all we really want to do is settle at out own keyboards dressed in fuzzy sweatpants with a steaming cup of Irish Breakfast Tea at the ready and spend the day writing our stories and poems.
This long, crazy winter has me feeling reckless and panicked. Why am I wasting all this time on non-writing tasks? Every body ache and tick of the forwarding clock screams at me: You are running out of time! Especially when I consider how long it takes to get a piece of writing just the way I want it, how long it takes to find an editor or agent who shares my vision, and how long it takes to actually see the published fruits of my labor. But as my dear friend reminded me, her forthcoming publication and subsequent paycheck may be enough to buy her a really nice avocado, and perhaps a few other treats to go along with it.
It will not be enough to fill her tank with heating oil to get her through the last chilly months until summer.
Yesterday’s check was cashed today and spent by noon. Over a decade of writing and waiting allowed me a pleasant morning outing of blueberry pancakes, two new tea towels for the kitchen, a garden flag, and a set of tiny chimes to hang in my writing room window. Because I refuse to pay bills with these precious little checks. That’s what I get up and go to work for each morning. No, what comes from something that brings me such joy, and fills me so completely, as writing does should also go to promote more joy.
Like the calm tinkling of red coral chimes or a delicious bite of avocado.