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A writer's life

By Bernard Chapin
web posted May 24, 2004

Somewhere around the time that I was dragging my fake musket to the bus stop for our first grade Bicentennial celebration, I got into my head that I wanted to be a writer. Although later realities, such as the need to avoid starvation, veered me from my dream profession, in the last few years I have returned to it and partially fulfilled my youthful desires.

My first real attempts to write occurred in high school when I took a poetry class. I continued to compose long after the course was finished and did so throughout college. Sadly, I have recently read over the results of my cloves cigarettes period and have to admit that they are superior to anything I could produce today. Yet, I abandoned poetry as a senior and focused on subjects which could guarantee more (any) future financial compensation.

After college, I attempted to write three novels and did not succeed in completing one of them, but, in 2001, at the age of 31, I wrote Napalm is the Scent of Justice. It was the direct product of my being pummeled with political correctness and radical feminism throughout the 1990's. I firmly believe that without the Lord's help I would have never finished it as the act of completion was something unknown to me. Although it sold few copies, it inspired the name of a blog, which for those of us embedded in the blogosphere, is no small consolation.

In February of 2003, after I got into it with a bunch of teachers/moral relativists/morons in the development class I was teaching, I was decided to peck out the tale on my computer. I then sent it over to Steve over at Enter Stage Right and a part-time internet pest was born shortly thereafter.

However, the "part-time" element of my writing is what continues to bother me. If I had my way I'd be inventing from about 6 am to 2 pm everyday, but it is not possible due to my already mentioned selfish need to avoid starvation. My desire to devote myself to composition is not a negative reflection upon my current job as I've always enjoyed my work in the schools. It's just that there are benefits to writing that cannot be found elsewhere.

The written word's power is such that many otherwise sensible men have decided to separate themselves from promising careers and swelling 401k accounts in order to become permanent members of the publishing profession. Jim Antle is one such person. He left a high powered corporate environment to become an assistant editor at The American Conservative and he is unquestionably the envy of all of his peers.

The aforementioned Steve Martinovich personifies our devotion as he's put every Canadian dollar he has into his website and is succeeding in keeping a rare bastion of northern sensibility afloat.

A recent cyberconversation with Hunter Baker is what got me thinking about the attraction many of us have to days spent mostly with a computer and an internet connection. We both agreed that under the right conditions it would be worthwhile to completely alter the direction of one's life (and in our case the adjustment would be downward) should a chance for perennial employment as a scribe present itself.

Yet even when such opportunities arise it does not mean that one will have any more time for personal writing. The most well-known writer I know, S.T. Karnick, has to spend many an hour pouring over the submissions of others in his role as Editor of American Outlook, but at least his work keeps him engrossed in the world of ideas.

The obvious question that must be posed here is what inspires cautious and careful men to spend so much time immersed in activities that are of dubious economic benefit? It is difficult for me to speak for anyone other than myself but I know that if you asked me to dig a trench and then discuss payment for it at a later date I'd tell you to go to blazes. Yet, if someone asked me to write an article for them concerning a topic I was interested in, I'd agree to do so within seconds even though payment was not specified. My guess is that most of the other part-timers would do the same thing.

The joy of creation may be a cliché but that doesn't diminish it's impact upon us. Few other acts begin with nothing and end with something that can be saved forever–or at least for the lifetime of one's hard drive, floppy disk, or website.

Furthermore, composition is one of the few ways in which a person can regularly experience closure in this world and that's what drives many of us to peck away every night.

Writing is also the best form of catharsis I have ever encountered. My political columns have left me quite calm and downright diplomatic on the occasions that I am coerced into verbal engagements with others. I now usually avoid getting over-emotional about my views because I've found that I've left most of my feelings on the page. There are few better forms of release for one's negative vibes than three or four hours of earnest mental stimulation.

Another unanticipated outcome of writing is that it makes us temporarily forget that nearly all of life is outside of our personal control. In fiction, the author's point can always be made and every situation becomes plausible with enough narrative skill. Even the great force of evil can be tamed and creative works are the only place in which on finds that the meek really do inherit the earth.

I have discovered that writing conveys highs that can only be matched by rarely obtained prescription medications. For the introverted, the endorphin rush is unparalleled. Once we begin, low thrill seeking personalities like mine are destined to chase the dragon forever. Normal concerns become secondary until the time comes in which one must click on save and begrudgingly leave the terminal because money (cruelly, I believe) must be earned – if only as a means to keep the electricity surging on one's stand alone.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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