Letters from Home

Writer’s Block… A Recessionary Guide to Art v. Work

I am a writer. It is my calling and who I am.

That is NOT however, currently my profession.

Currently I am teacher. (I would appreciate any and no one stopping off at the cliche wheel for the “those who can’t..” metaphor.)

So here I am, with a perfectly good STRING of writing credits, heaps of experience, two and and change unpublished novels and an upside-down mortgage. And I’m suddenly overtaken with panic. I am not working as a writer. I am not working as a writer!

I have to say, though it isn’t fair: I am starting to relate to the guy, David, who has now found himself living in the tent city in Sacramento:

“Trying to get back on my feet, you know. Daily, I still go out looking for a job. But the thing I’m running into is when I put the application in they ask me, ‘Where do you live at?’ And I go, ‘Actually, I don’t have a place to live. I’m homeless.’ That’s it. They don’t hire me.” –– David Cutch, quoted on NPR

I wake up everyday to the words of NPR reporters: “downturn” “recession” “struggles” “losses” “foreclosures.” There are “Ponzi”s and “bailouts” with “disgraced” financiers and “outraged” people worrying over whether we’ve been “tricked” by AIG, or “duped” by GM or “wiped out” by Citigroup.

Hey, I can tell you something– I am a writer and I know what words do to you. They take from being a welder, like David Cutch, and living the American Dream (“owning” his own home), working hard and paying his bills, to being NOTHING — a throw-back “Hooverville-ite,” reduced to the status of dog by the sorry term “homeless.”

In case you are worried you’ll miss the apocalyptic bankers leaping out the windows–the way we all read about from the 1929 Black Tuesday– don’t worry. We’ll have plenty of warning. Our newscrews will be poised, with Newschoppers above and all manner of HD and stop-action recording devices below, to ensure we don’t miss the sound of bones cracking and brains smearing on the pavement.

Meanwhile, I can’t imagine why my writing is sputtering through camera-shutter stops. Or why no one is reading the papers. And we don’t want to know what is in the news. And why the world wishes its writers would just shut the hell up, anyhow.

In a rapid and strategic move to tamp down the fallout, Obama also announced Monday that he has instructed Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to “pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole.” Geithner last week had already confronted AIG chief Edward Liddy about the payouts.” –quoted from NPR

It’s a long way to tent city from there.

6 thoughts on “Writer’s Block… A Recessionary Guide to Art v. Work

  1. I have been getting into podcasts too… I like to listen to The Moth and New Yorker Fiction. I think it is similar to my Mom’s desire to watch Doris Day movies when things get bad.

  2. I’ll be honest – I love NPR but because of the news these days and how it’s presented I find I am listening to alot of books on CD now instead of the news. Call me an ostrich…and I’ll just keep plugging along and hoping for the best and if the recession continues and I lose my job because music curriculums are usually the first to go – well, I’ll deal with that then.
    (I love reading your blogs – thanks for sharing)

  3. Marietta! I AGREE in part with your friend (not on the causality however) but the deepening of the despair… We ARE our words, and the constant hammering of negativity drives us down and back. We saw the opposite occur during the election– the strong language of possibility and of HOPE achieved something most Americans and the world we stunned by.

    OK… I’ll go listen to Ira and see if I feel any better. I’m behind on my American Life podcasts. I just got through the Bobby Dunbar one. An amazing story about loss of identity and family.

  4. “Meanwhile, I can’t imagine why my writing is sputtering through camera-shutter stops. Or why no one is reading the papers. And we don’t want to know what is in the news. And why the world wishes its writers would just shut the hell up, anyhow”

    Elizabeth #1 I really like your blog and I like reading it. #2 I think being a teacher is noble and I don’t buy the old cliche. #3 Today someone (whom I respect and who is in a position to be respected) told me that she thinks the recession has been nearly caused/worsened by reporters reporting the news. #4 I think she is full of shit. Please don’t stop writing. Please don’t stop teaching. Teach people to write about the recession. Teach people to help others understand the recession. #5 Have you listened to This American Life’s reporting on the recession? It’s awesome. It’s why we need writers, especially now.

  5. So many people are not working in their core skillset or desired profession these days. But I guess it’s great to have a job at all now!

    I talked yesterday with a very professional manager-type guy who is now driving a bus – entry-level. He’s happy for the work.

    We’re all hoping and praying that this stuff will turn around.

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