Phyllis Schieber Author

Women's Fiction by Phyllis Schieber

The Literary Life… Answering the Call

Writer’s Digest (May/June 2010) published an interview with Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird). She said, “…I really believe people are called to a literary life like others are called to a theological life or a religious life, but [publishing is] a business that is really hard. Hard on your heart. Hard on your soul. Hard on your everything.”

My first reaction to Anne Lamott’s words was that if she’s having a hard time, what does that mean for the rest of us? Once I got past that, I realized that not only hasn’t she always been “Anne Lamott,” but also that publishing is always hard, even for Anne Lamott. The process, the compromises, the doubts, the fear of never having something new to write about, the reviews (those friggin’ critics–who do they think they are?), the dreaded NUMBERS (if my much loved agent tells me one more time that my “numbers” aren’t as high as they could be… even though I wonder how an unknown author like myself sells any books at all since the publisher expects good sales, but does absolutely NOTHING to make that happen… also, if you spend all your damn writing time writing blogs how is the average person supposed to write AND make a living? I digress.. . there must be a half-dozen possibilities for other blogs in that last rant alone!) Sometimes I think about walking away from all this. I would be free of blogging, free of the anxiety that takes hold when the writing is slow, or not happening at all; free of how hard it really is on  the heart, the soul, the everything, just as Lamott says. I could spend even more time practicing yoga, read more, take longer walks, anything at all, really. I think about it, but I know I could never do it. I’m writing even when I’m not writing. I would have to become someone else instead of the woman who scribbles in a notebook or on a napkin or who has been known to shout to her son if she had no  immediate access to a pencil and paper, “Can you just write down ‘remembers the phone or  ‘saw him through the window’?” Sometimes just a word or a name. My son always obliged without question when this happened, and I always loved him even more for this. I would have to stop turning everything into a sentence and adding “he said” or “she said.” I would have to stop cutting out articles from the newspaper or tearing out pages from a magazine in a doctor’s office. I would have to be an entirely new person, and I don’t want to do that. I hate being a writer, but I love it more. I hate it because publishing is so hard and so arbitrary. It can be so disappointing, so demoralizing. I could go on forever about why it often feels as if it would be easier not to answer the call than to summon it. However, I love being a writer so much more. I love that I can sometimes, as John Updike once described it, I can make the words dance across the page. And when that happens, it’s such a rush. I can still experience the wonder of being able to do that… to put words together in a way that touch someone, reach a place inside, make someone laugh, make someone cry. I can really do that. How cool is that?


April 28, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. I really enjoyed reading this and has made me realize just how much I have missed writing and using my brain in that capacity. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Beth | May 1, 2010 | Reply

    • My pleasure, Beth! Write!

      Comment by phyllis | May 4, 2010 | Reply

  2. Thank you for this post. I’ve struggled a lot with the heartache of it all as I’ve been pitching my first novel and submitting short stories. It’s a tough biz, but when I think of all the other possible I could have beens, I always go back to not wanting to do anything but write. I guess that means its my calling:)

    Comment by survivorscribe | May 2, 2010 | Reply

    • It really is a calling, isn’t it? I always wonder what I’d do with my time instead… nothing as interesting! Don’t give up the struggle!

      Comment by phyllis | May 4, 2010 | Reply

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