Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Writers
“Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Don't let 'em pick guitars and drive them old trucks
Make 'em be doctors and lawyers and such
Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys
They'll never stay home and they're always alone
Even with someone they love
Cowboys ain't easy to love and they're harder to hold
And they'd rather give you a song than diamonds or gold
Lonestar belt buckles and old faded Levis”
My thanks to Willie Nelson
And now change the lyrics for writers. Since I’m not a songwriter I won’t even try, but I think you get the point. Is this really what you want your son or daughter doing with their lives? If you truly love them can you really wish them well as they embark on a life of writing?
The Constant Struggle to Pen the Perfect Line
Consider this for a moment: day in, day out, hours at a time, the writer will sit in solitude juggling nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives, mixing and matching, tossing to and fro, losing sleep and ripping out hair, all to reach a nebulous level of perfection only they understand.
They have read the classics so they fully understand what perfection looks like. That bar has been set unbelievably high, so high that they suspect they will never reach it, and yet every single day they try, a sure sign of insanity.
At an early age they discovered the joys of taking thoughts and putting them on paper, and they received the obligatory pats on the head from relatives and their elementary teachers told them they were “wonderful little writers,” but now they are older and reality is baring its teeth, and all the gold stars in the world do not a great writer make; no, that elusive perfection requires hard work and a dogged determination that few have.
And Where Is That Praise Now?
Gone with the wind as the teen years fade from view and adulthood rears its ugly head. The husband has his job already and he can’t understand why his little homemaker is wasting her time writing for no rewards and ignoring household chores in the process…..or why she isn’t out in the real world working and making some money instead of this foolishness.
The parents want their child to make something of themselves. This is a tough world, dammit, and it requires people toughened by hard work and real life experiences….not some shut-in out of touch with life and flailing away at the computer ten hours a day…..and what kind of living can a writer make anyway? Seems like a sure-fire recipe for poverty if you ask me, they say. Lawyers make good money; writers starve. Doctors are pillars of society; writers are the dregs once the coffee has stopped brewing.
Son, if you want the nicer things in life then you need a profession that will make you some money; forget this nonsense and get out there and earn; consumerism needs you my boy!
No Promises My Lovely Daughter
What do you call a person who spends six months, nine months, twelve months of their life writing a novel with absolutely no guarantees that anyone will read it let alone buy it? A fool?
What do you call a person who writes 100,000 words, then re-writes it, and re-writes it again, and then suffers rejection after rejection from complete strangers all telling them that their work lacks voice, their work lacks depth and their work lacks talent? A fool?
In a world of instant gratification there is none promised a writer. A writer will spend years in anonymity. They will spend years building their platform, networking their tails off, making contacts and peddling their wares, all with no guarantees of success. Without an agent or a publisher the writer will hold books signings, do readings, join writer’s critique groups, suffer anxieties and self-doubts, and not once receive the “pat on the back” they dimly remember from their childhood.
Is that what you truly wish for your child?
A Recipe for Ill Health and Possibly Insanity
The sun does not shine on a writer’s studio. Interaction with their fellow man is missing; those lovely walks in the park are forsaken for one more page, and then another, rambling on in hopes of what?
They are the shut-ins, the recluses, the introspective introverts who find loneliness in a crowded room and safety in solitude, and what the hell kind of life is that for any sane person?
Their heroes are the Hemingways and the Steinbecks, hard-drinking men who said goodbye to reality at an early age and never again found it. Theirs is a path of uncertainty, stress, and diminished self-worth. Is that what you want for your little cherub, mamas?
Yes Indeed It Is
For the love of all that is holy yes, that is what you should want for your child if they love to write; that is what you should want for yourself if you love to write.
Writers bring beauty into a world that desperately needs it. Writers soothe the savage beast in the hearts of men. Writers suspend reality and allow others to travel to places once only imagined. Writers fabricate, illuminate and educate. Writers are crucial to any advanced society that values information over ignorance.
Where would we be without the contributions of writers? What darkness would we find ourselves in if it were not for those gifted individuals who cast aside the naysayers and provide much-needed entertainment for the masses?
In a world that is constantly attempting to self-destruct through greed, complacency, apathy and yes, violence, writers provide a deep breath and a calming influence. When a country needs inspiration, writers provide it. When a lonely child needs comfort, writers provide it. When hope is seemingly lost, when sorrow threatens to overcome, and when a light is needed to illuminate the darkness, writers are there.
In other words, mamas, please encourage your children to become writers. We need them!
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”