Friday, December 9, 2011

Stocking Stuffer

In this season of giving, I've been receiving a lot lately . . . which, of course, fills me with gratitude and provokes me to giving.  Or, more specifically, I've become the darling of certain editors who, for whatever reasons, have been grabbing up my writing and sending me (small sums though they be) checks here at year-end.  Now I can give some nicer gifts to others in need . . . which I plan to do.

Some years back, I recall an interview with John Updike in which he explained that, as a child of the Depression, he never felt that he could turn down a writing opportunity, even one that promised a small paycheck, and that even though he had earned enough as a writer to sign only the large contracts, he could never bring himself to stop signing the small ones.  And in Updike's last book (reviewed in my blog two days ago), he notes in one essay that early in his life the money he earned from writing poems was not insignificant to him as a husband and father.  Even the $10 payments in 1950 meant something: an oil change, a sack of groceries, a few gallons of gasoline.

Although I am not a child of the Depression, I am afraid I have inherited my parent's strong work ethic and their insistence that I never turn away any work, even jobs that paid little or nothing.  As a kid, I mowed some yards for free (since my parents told me it was my duty to help a poor neighbor or a widow), and later I worked my way through both college and seminary, holding down, at times, three to four jobs at a whack.  Sometimes, I would leave one job to go to another, writing my essays or completing homework in the cracks and crevices between these jobs--tired to the bone, but energized with the prospect of writing something that I wanted to write when I found 15-30 minutes of "free" time.

I've kept the pace . . . for forty years now.

Editors who know me know this:  I'll write nearly anything. I'll write copious amounts for small sums, and I'll write late at night or in the wee hours of the morning.  I'll take a small check.  And another.  And another.  And another.

But even these add up . . . and the small sums have also taught me another valuable lesson as a writer.  My well is never dry.  I've never experienced "writer's block."  I've got diarrhea of the pen. If there's an editor who's buying . . . I'm writing.  Heck, I'm writing even if editors are not buying! 

Thanks, editors, for making my December a little brighter with those tiny little checks that I can cash out for handfuls of dimes and quarters.  Most of these have gone into a pot dangling next to a bell-ringer.  Next year, I'll just have you cut the checks to the charities directly and by-pass the writer all-together.

I'm just a stocking stuffer.  And I'm glad to be of service. 

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