The Rock Star World of a Writer (Not!)

I’m a capable woman who spent fourteen years as an independent adult before getting married. I entered into my marriage with my own power drill, mortgage, and system for organizing my book collection. We are an evolved family: my husband does the laundry, I order take-out for dinner, and the kids are learning how to mix Manhattans (okay, not quite, but a mother can dream).

Husband travels occasionally for work. It’s not a huge deal, as the kids are older and we can manage. Yet without fail, our smoke alarms go off right after he leaves. And while I can poke at a fire alarm with the best of them, I’m terrified of heights and won’t climb a ladder, so I leave the checking of alarms to him. Husband left on Saturday for a work trip to London. Like clockwork, on Sunday, the alarm chirped. And not just any of the alarms—the highest alarm, the one next to a skylight way above the stairs. The one outside our bedrooms. The one we can’t ignore. On a Sunday. Early evening. You try getting an electrician out fast. That alarm was torture. Beeeeepp! Silence, silence, silence. Beeeeepp!

My daughter's sick day supplies
My daughter’s sick day supplies

And then, in the wee hours of Monday morning (4:47 a.m. to be exact), my 10 year old crawls into my bed, thus insuring I won’t get back to sleep until ten minutes before the alarm goes off. When I do wake up, I notice she is unusually warm, because why wouldn’t she develop a fever when I have three articles due and no back-up parent?

The worst part? I’ve given up sugar. No really. I’m serious! My gummy bear problem was getting out of hand and there’s no middle ground for me: I’m either all sugar or no sugar.

What does any of this have to do with our theme this week of “transitions”? Nothing. Everything. The point is, just because you’re a writer, the world doesn’t stop for you. You still have a husband who travels, smoke alarms that go off, kids with fevers, and no one to make you a Manhattan. There’s no grand transition that happens at a certain point of being a writer. You write a book. You change some diapers. You get an agent. You shovel the snow on the front walk. You sell your book. You harangue your son to practice his viola. You’re a month out from book launch. You hire an electrician, feed your daughter chicken soup, and wish you had gummy bears.

When my book sold, I did a little happy dance in the kitchen. My kids joined in. But I couldn’t say anything until paperwork was signed and Publishers Marketplace announcements had been made. No one even knew about it. When I could finally tell my friends, they were super excited. And then confused. “Wait, you sold your book in November 2014? And we have to wait till when for it to come out?” (The words I have grown most tired of hearing? “Is your book out yet?”)

It would be so great if after any of the milestones—finishing the novel, finding representation, selling the book—there was fanfare and a carved out space that says, “I’m a writer! Let me write!” Not only is there not, but because writing is solitary, most folks don’t even know when you’ve hit that milestone. And if they do, they don’t really get it. “Hey, I’ve finished the third revision on this novel and I can feel it in my bones I’m only going to need one more!” doesn’t have the same oomph as “I sold a million widgets!” or “I successfully kept my client out of jail” or “I cured a disease!” No, writing is a quiet activity and until that book appears on the shelf, there’s not much to celebrate.

CoffeeNext month my book will be in stores. My friends will ooh and ah and I’ll feel like a rock star for the hour of my launch. But then I’ll go back to sitting alone at my desk, continuing to write.

Because I’m a writer. And that a nickel will get you a cup of coffee.*

*I know, outdated saying. But it sounds better than “I’m a writer. And that and $4.67 will get you a venti nonfat extra hot latte.”

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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