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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Writer in Hard Times

These are hard times. On this we can agree. The writer in hard times is actually better equipped for the deprivation that comes when the coins stop clinking. Apologies to all writers who laugh to the bank for the next sentence...Because writers are always having hard times. When someone decides to become a scribbler of literary fiction or any type of fiction then you make peace with the fact you will probably be broke a lot of your life. It comes with the territory, in fact hard times informs the work.

The obvious reference to Hemingway on the left bank stating hunger made his stories better is probably a little over the top, especially since he had his wife's trust fund to fall back on. But certainly the struggling writer (is there any other kind) produces his work out of a pressure that is exerted by his situation. If fiction is produced by incongruities in a persons psychological makeup then it is certainly ratcheted up by the tectonics of being unable to make a living. The struggling artist is not really a stereotype, artists do struggle, they struggle every damn day to produce their work and survive.

So when hard times hit then the struggling writer usually is fully armed. He or she may fall further down the economic totem pole, but the psychological armor is there. Writers never define themselves by bourgeois standards or at least they shouldn't. Writers define themselves by their work and most are happy to have the basics covered so the work can be accomplished. Whenever I took a job I always evaluated it not on how much I made, but how much I could write! This is not a normal evaluation and one thing writers find out before most people is that being broke is a state of mind and if you let it get you then it will.

So maybe art is for a man with a full belly, as EM. Forester said in Howards End, but  the artist writer survives through good times and bad and yes it is probably true you write better with your back against the wall. In that way, we should see a literary flowering any day now as the Great Recession drags on and on and on.

William Hazelgrove's latest novel Rocket Man is due out in September.

Books by William Hazelgrove