A Penny for your Thoughts!
Date posted: October 15, 2007
Growing up I had ample respect for writers whether they wrote for the silver screen or on the pages of newspapers and magazines. My deepest and most pious thoughts were directed towards those whose books and novels hacked my mind. I have always envisioned male authors to be old wealthy intellectual creatures whose lives are filled with seminars, parties, lectures, and brilliant discussions. My teenage head believed that female writers had to wear glasses on a plump face; they had to be short and their hair had to be gray. It was natural to assume that recognition, wealth, and thoughts that were worth sharing came with age; hence, the notion of a young writer was not to be conceived.
Over the past 33 years I have absorbed the colors, scents, flavors, textures, and voices of everything I encountered. I have sponged on people I met vacuuming their feelings, experiences, beliefs, fears, dreams, and nightmares. I have turned into a walking magnetic crucible of humanity and there is much more to attract. When I turned 30 my collective potion of pain reached its boiling temperature and it began pouring in emails to my friends, on magazine pages, and along the tabs of my blogs. Writing liberated me and vented the heat off my overloaded psyche. I also discovered that great young writers exist and that female writers could be pretty and smart without one attribute overriding the other.
In my grown up head it was natural to assume that if a person had the talent and the imagination to string literary beads of thoughts into a sacred rosary, then that person could be a writer. Then I learned the power of connections and the allure of fame. I adamantly worked on both seizing every opportunity that beamed in my horizon. I thought that I was a few baby steps away from my dream – becoming a writer … a real writer … a published writer with books, essays, novels, and what-have-you. Again, I assumed that people who contribute to the legacy of an era should do nothing but write, and that if a person chose to become a writer then that person needed to earn a good living out of writing.
Between the ruthless clutches of publishers, producers, agents, copyrights, and other calculative mechanisms a writer’s priceless thoughts and words became worthless. The most creative writers I know are leading the lives of vagabonds. The freelancers, unless they are trapped into some corporate entity, they are semi starved. The scriptwriters – talented ones – are licking the dust. Novelists are sold cheap and columnists do it for fun. Editors in magazines enjoy zero stability and very little income compared to their counterparts in other industries.
The blogosphere has attracted a multitude of writers – published and unpublished – whose work reeks of talent. Whether it is in English or Arabic; be it poetry or prose – mystical is their gift. Being the naïve optimist that I am, I urged them to get published. The Miss Fix-It that I could be, embarked on creating a fool-proof marketing plan for their talent and gift in a world that pays more for a skilled – not talented – well-connected pen. The World Wide Web has given them a voice, a solid base of readers, a fan club, and interactive feedback. They have escaped from materialistic torture devices into cyberspace. They write because they just want to write – it is not a living and it certainly is not a life.
The image that I painted for writers in my teens is now shattered. The dream that I lived about becoming one of them is now uncertain. Touring the world with my books, touching hearts, provoking thoughts, and raising our dead society from its beauty sleep all seem vague. If I want to maintain the standard of living that I luckily enjoy now, writing will not suffice. I will always have to sell my body to some corporate entity to secure my basic physiological and safety needs. In front of me she sat, and with young inquisitive eyes the 21 year old journalist looked at me and asked: “Can I make a living out of being a writer?” I could have lied. I could have given her false hope. I looked into her soul and said: “No! It’s a penny for your thoughts!”