A Writer's Life

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make good art

I’ve been working on this post for over a month. Many drafts have gone into the bin and it’s taken me thousands of words to find the three I needed, and the three words aren’t even my own. They’re Neil Gaiman’s and they’re simply this; make good art.

During this bizarre time in our history, we’re all being forced to change and adjust and find “a new normal”. The zeitgeist has been swirling with differing opinions, conflicting information and varying emotions. Some people have chosen to see this as an opportunity to write the book they’ve always wanted to write, or begin the fitness program they’ve been meaning to begin. Others however, have loudly called foul on this, believing instead that it’s morally wrong to expect anyone to be productive right now.

Over the next few years, we’ll all go through the range of emotions from this is hopeless to I can do this! We might even cover that full range in one day, or one hour. And yes, I said the next few years because that’s how long it will take to find a vaccine for COVID-19, manufacture it and distribute it to people all over the world.

In the meantime, we’ve got to find ways to earn a living. Professional writers earn their income from their creative work. That means that, regardless of the stress we’re under, we have to find ways to produce new work. We have to find ways to hit our deadlines. We have to find ways to write stories that aren’t only about pandemics that sweep the planet. (You watch, the market will be flooded with those soon!)

That’s what Shakespeare was doing when he wrote King Lear. He was doing his job and finding ways to keep his actors employed and his family fed. He didn’t know he was writing something the world would still be reading 400 years later, and I seriously doubt that was his goal or even his wildest dream.

A writer’s life is about making good art; the best we can make regardless of the circumstances.

If you’re unfamiliar with Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech to the students of Philadelphia’s University of Fine Arts, I encourage you to give it a listen. And then, go make your good art. 

Valerie Francis

one year from now

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people be wack

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