The famous novelist Ernest Hemingway said, “There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.”
Lest we forget, ole Ernie drank. A lot. He isn't the only one. Many, many talented and famous writers drank. They did drugs. They had dismal private lives and no manners with the public. So, without launching into a rendition of "Gloom, Despair and Agony on Me" (Some of you are old enough to catch that reference.) let us agree writing can sometimes be a very lonely, painful, miserable endeavor. Knowing this, one wonders why anyone signs up for this sort of torture without a contract with a really hot millionaire, a limited engagement, and a safe word.
There are nights I sit in front of my computer determined to crank out 1000 words before I surrender and go to bed and I ask myself...
WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING ??
On those nights if sucking down another cup of Earl Grey whilst scarfing another Reese's cup doesn't do it, I do my version of "It could be worse!" No matter how bad a writing hour or day or weekend gets, it still beats...
WORKING AT WALMART !
Okay, calm down. Sit back down in your chair. I scared myself typing those words. I am certain most of you had the same sort of reaction Jamie Lee Curtis had when Michael Meyers came lurching out of that closet.
Here are my Top Twelve Reasons Writing is Better Than Working at Walmart.
1. No bra is required. Men don't get this. Most women do. Working sans bra is more comfortable than working strapped up like an astronaut for a shuttle launch. If you work at Walmart the dress code says you have to wear a bra and underwear. I'm not exactly certain how they intend to check for the underwear. I guess some things they will take on faith. Unfortunately there are no rules about customers wearing underwear of any kind. This does not, however, prevent said customers from dressing in such a way you either know exactly what sort of underwear they are wearing because it is hanging out like the national flag of the "Hey, Baby" Olympics. OR You know they aren't wearing any underwear at all because you see skin where you shouldn't be able to see skin or those puppies are running down their chests like American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby with the finish line in the vicinity of their knees.
2. You don't have to watch a never-ending loop of People at Walmart. I am fairly certain it is against the Geneva Convention, but some days that is exactly what working at Walmart is like. As a writer you get to dress your characters (or undress them) and the only people with scary moles, scars, tattoos, body odor, bad teeth, and a truly hideous fashion sense are your villains. Or your heroine or hero's relatives. And you can ship them all off to Trenton, New Jersey or Hell when you don't want to look at them anymore. We can't do that at Walmart. I asked.
3. You can eat, drink, go to the bathroom, or take a nap whenever you want. Now I know you need to spend most of your time writing, but until you have had a manager chase you into the bathroom and talk to you from the other side of the stall door about changing every label in your department, you will never know the joy of simply getting up and going to the bathroom in complete silence and without a stalker following you. Unless you count dogs. Apparently, to dogs going to the bathroom is a very dangerous endeavor and requires complete canine supervision. But they don't talk to you about price changes.
4. You can drink as much wine as you want. Yeah, they frown on that at Walmart. We asked. More than once.
5. You can start when you want to and finish when you want to and no one will tell you - "You can't go home until XX is done. And, by the way, if you work over your scheduled hours you will have to take it off at lunch." Which can result in your working from 7 to 8 AM, taking a lunch from 8 AM to 3 PM and then working from 3 PM to 4 PM. You can stay up all night writing and sleep until noon the next day and no one will tell you they want you to work until midnight and be back at work at 4 AM.
6. You can wear whatever the hell you want. There is no uniform for writing. Well there is, but it usually consists of pajamas or sweat pants and a t shirt. And shoes are optional. Once I finally quit Walmart for good, I swear I will burn every khaki and navy piece of clothing I own. And we are not going to discuss what will happen to those dorky little vests. It won't be pretty.
7. While I am certain editors can be a pain, none of them can compare with some Opie-looking Walmart manager haranguing you every five minutes about the five hundred projects he gave you to complete in eight hours. And whilst your characters may give you the runaround and change their minds frequently, they are nothing like the schizophrenic, maniacal, ambitious dictators hired straight out of A**holes R Us you will encounter in almost every Walmart in the country these days. And many writers are in a position to switch editors if necessary. Working at Walmart you have to take what they give you. You can't knock them in the back of the head with a six day old baguette and hang them in the meat freezer. I asked.
8. You can read and no one will make fun of what you are reading. They won't ask why you are reading a book about the correct way to serve eel pie or the proper etiquette for a duel. You can read without country music so sad it would depress a hyena playing overhead. You can follow a research trail through your research library or through the rabbit hole that is the internet and no one will look over your shoulder and announce to the entire room that you are researching early nineteenth century brothels and the services they offered on your smart phone during your lunch hour. Talk about an E.F. Hutton Moment.
9. You can look at pictures of half 'nekkid' men to your heart's content. And call it research. Your only chance to see half 'nekkid' men at Walmart usually involves flab, jiggling, and hair. SHUDDER.
10. You feel as if you are working toward something enduring instead of something no one will remember ten years from now. You are creating something to touch someone's heart rather than lighten their wallet. You are creating a legacy, instead of a rising line on some CEO's graph. Walmart is about making money. Period. Writing is about making a connection, making someone's life better, giving someone hope, allowing someone to escape, to laugh, to cry - to be human. You cannot put a price on that.
11. You are allowed to be who you truly are, who you were always meant to be. Working at Walmart is about conforming and towing the company line. Everything must be exactly as the home office dictates. Writing is about expressing yourself and expressing those things you believe in, the things you hope to share with others in such a way they take home something to sustain them through those bad days and weeks we all have. Yes, your readers have to pay for the book (at least you hope they do) but what they gain from reading your books is limited only by your skill and their imagination.
12. You spend your days in communication with people who are just like you. Writers are a species unto themselves. Spending time with my fellow writers, whether in person or online, fills my soul. I am not alone. I am not the weird chick who reads and writes all of the time. With other writers I am "normal," whatever that means. I am comfortable in my skin. I don't have to smile and pretend I am not insulted when people treat me like a piece of furniture or a second class citizen because I work at Walmart. Never underestimate the power of mutual respect, mutual understanding, and mutual craziness to make even the worst writing day bearable.
See ! Twelve really good reasons writing is better than working at Walmart. On the days I feel like throwing in the writing towel and resigning myself to working at Walmart until I have to use a grocery cart as a walker, I read over this list and heft my butt back into that chair. One other reason writing is better than working at Walmart is every once in a while I write something I think isn't half bad.
“Love is never wasted. Even if you never see a moment’s profit in it. Even if it takes you thirty years to find it. Love isn’t for the one who receives it, my dear boy. It is for the one who gives it.”
from A PERFECTLY UNREGIMENTED CHRISTMAS - CHRISTMAS REVELS II
How about you? Do you have a list of reasons writing is better than your day job or better than whatever keeps you from writing full time? Share those reasons with us ! What keeps your butt in the chair?
Hey, you knew there might be a commercial in there somewhere. I AM trying to write my way out of Walmart !