There are those who react with surprise upon hearing that I am in possession of a creative writing degree. I earned it, the old fashioned way: I took a boatload of writing workshops and fiction classes and film classes and eventually surrendered my transcript to a counselor and asked them to make a diploma out of it. Presto! Creative Writing Degree.
Now, thirty years later, I find myself plying my trade once a day, right here on the corner of surrender and frustration. Which isn't exactly true. The career I might have envisioned for myself at age twenty, scribbling furiously on a deadline and delivering hilarious stories to the delight of audiences far and near mostly fell by the wayside. That is because I lacked that most important muscle: the promotion muscle. Selling myself has never been anything I would be willing to do, let alone be coerced into making my art into a commodity.
Which sounds terribly snooty, in hindsight. Bruce Springsteen doesn't live on an island, creating his records for the flora and fauna there. He has an army of marketing people and a management team that wakes up in the morning trying to find new ways to get The Boss into your life. That wasn't always the case, of course. There was a time when Bruce was lugging his guitar and his tapes around in a station wagon, wishing for a record contract. He had plenty of encounters with the business end of the music business, none of which ended with him giving up.
Me? I sent some poems off to a literary magazine that paid in contributor copies. That was my last truly defined act of making a living as a writer. I have done a lot of writing since then. According to my wife, I write about a book a year. This is borne out by the collections she has put together of these blogs and made them available for sale. To say she did this against my will would be an overstatement. I have done nothing to block any of the transactions made through this online presence. Mentioning it here makes me a little nervous. What if someone read these and liked them? And what if the demand for my talents became so great that I had to retire from teaching and spend every day sitting in front of a blank screen, waiting for inspiration?
Ah, my wife. She is her own industry. She actively promotes herself and her work with a passion that makes me believe that it can't be such a bad thing after all. Her wish to be known for all her creative endeavors overwhelms me at times. This should come as no surprise, since it tends to overwhelm her at times. But that doesn't keep her from working at it tirelessly, and not only that, she seems interested in bringing that same light to all her creative friends and family. She coaxed my younger brother out into the world of galleries and shows. She got him an email address. She put him on Facebook.
Then she looked at me, and I ran. Not far away, but a safe distance that kept my thoughts in a safe place, away from the prying eyes of the audience I might have intended.
If I did such a thing.
And all the while, she kept a respectful distance, asking if I minded if she shared this or that piece. Then she submitted a blog of mine to the Good Men Project. They published it. There was no cash award, nor were there contributor copies. I can still be proud of my starving artist image while I remain fed through my "real job."
And I can be grateful for the light that my wife continues to shine on people she finds entertaining. I am humbled by her attentions. Now it's back to the shadows for me.