I asked my sister, the organic farmer, about her images of writers. She knows writing isn’t glamorous because she sees me every day. She frequently deals with celebrities so she isn’t impressed when I mention that I have met and spoken with dozens of NYT Bestselling authors, and at least three of them might actually know my name if I said hi at a conference. Nevertheless, she has a clear image of what she imagines a writing life should look like.
A writer, she says, should live Alone on a hill with a good view from her desk. She should be surrounded by nature and gardens where she can walk for inspiration and mild exercise in between scenes. She lives within walking distance of a small town or village (I’m guessing Stars Hollow would be about right). Everyone knows and respects her, and they are so darned impressed with how she comes up with all those exciting stories. They never ask rude questions about how she does the research for the parts with sex and/or violence.
This writer has dogs, cats, maybe a horse, and a housekeeper. She has someone to help out with the garden during those times she is immersed in her work and forgets to cut the grass and deadhead the roses. She spends most of her working time in her library/office, surrounded by thousands of her favorite books and the speediest Internet connection known to humankind. She works there Alone.
The part about being Alone is very important, she believes. She might not be as annoyed by Jonathan Franzen as some of us are.
This writer works diligently, but her life is not hectic. She is blessed with editors who are entirely sane and so well-organized they never throw the work plan for her entire year into chaos because they need “just a few minor revisions, you know, like the beginning, that middle bit there, and this little part of the ending” back by the end of this week. She has time for coffee with her friends and walks into the hills with her dogs.
This writer spends at least a month in Paris every year, two weeks in spring when the tulips are blooming, and two weeks in the winter to visit the museums. Other trips are fitted in as research needs dictate. Oh, and let’s not forget the December shopping trip to New York, which can be nicely combined with a bit of business (this writer is traditionally published, though she may dip a toe into indie publishing with some of her backlist titles).
And, the greatest felicity of all, this writer makes enough money writing to afford this grand house with extensive grounds, the people to care for it (and the gargantuan vet bills) without ever, ever, ever having to worry about money.
I snort ('cuz I'm elegant and glamorous that way) and ask if organic farmers eat granola and smoke weed in their overalls while celebrity chefs accompany them through the fields under the indulgent eyes of Food Network camera crews as Whole Foods helicopters drop bags of money from on high.
Yeah, we agreed. Not so much of either one, but enough to keep us dreaming.