Some days, when writers’ block descends, our query letters return like boomerangs and our books aren’t selling, it’s nice to reflect upon what we have going for us.
1. We can travel light. Unlike plumbers and brain surgeons, writers need only a small notebook and a pencil to do our jobs (the current electronic paraphernalia is fine, but optional). And if you’re one of those fortunate souls able to conjure lengthy passages in your head, you don’t need anything at all.
2. We can eat and drink while we work.
3. We face no institutional barriers. You can’t call yourself a doctor, a lawyer, a minister or a police officer without jumping through some societal hoops. To call yourself a writer, though, all you have to do is write. It doesn’t have to be how you make your living, you don’t need to be published, and you don’t even have to be good at it.
4. It’s OK to be poor. True, it’s not fun — but our literary culture has elevated the starving writer into something of a noble sufferer.
5. It’s OK to be weird. Indeed, for writers, artists and musicians, it seems that the stranger and more anti-social you become, the more intrigued people are by your work. Creative types also get a pass on habitual drunkenness, self-destructive drug use and sexual adventurism. Think about it: In what other profession would Edgar Alan Poe and F. Scott Fitzgerald have been considered success stories?
6. We can change identities at will. All of us, in our darker moments, have fervently wished we were someone else. Fortunately, writers can use a time travel device called “first person” to transport themselves anywhere we like, at any point in history.
7. Writers are allowed to use pen names, a rarity among professions. How would you feel if your banker told you: “You know, this isn’t my real name”?
8. The best writers can become famous without the downside of fame — no paparazzi, no autograph hounds. Most of us wouldn’t know any of the current Top Ten best-selling authors if they were standing at our front door.
9. Everyone has the right to our opinion. If you stood up in a bar or on a street corner and told the world what you thought about some controversial issue, you’d risk being punched in the face or arrested (or worse, in some countries). But if you express your opinion in writing, you generally need fear only a few nasty e-mails.
10. You may never be published, but chances are you will have the ability to write memorable responses to creditors (See No. 4 above), devastating breakup letters to end bad relationships, and, if worst comes to worst, suicide notes.