Confronting the Stereotypes of the Struggling Writer Who Must “Suffer for Their Work”
As writers and artists, we are under constant pressure to produce: to beat deadlines, to write every day, to crank out prose and poetry and comics and songs and articles to develop a thick skin, to harden to those who mock us, to become cold to rejection, to stop playing around and work, work, work like your life depended on it. And we are taught that your work is only valuable if it generates income.
Chanel Dubofsky, a writer who is at work on her first novel about American Jews in Israel in the aftermath of the 1967 war, says capitalism dictates all corners of our writing lives even when we don’t know it. The overriding principle of capitalism is that we are only worthy contributors if we produce that which can be sold. But it is an anathema to creativity. And it stands in direct opposition to the stretch and arch and deep breathing we need in order to write what we need to write: the unmanicured, the messy, the dangerous.
Dubofsky says, the word count, the timeline, the demand, that we finished this way, and do exactly this, cuts off our circulation. But it is not just this idea of product above all else that’s disruptive of our writing selves. There’s also this idea of scarcity vs abundance. We have internalized the message that there’s only a finite number of things that can be written, and that only a few people who could write them. The truth is there is so much more than one tiny space, and it is ours to claim and expand.
But there’s bad news.
The bad news is that capitalism is in the water along with white supremacy and patriarchy. And it’s in our brains and in our bodies. It looks like just one more thing: I haven’t done enough today and other people can take a break during a global pandemic but not me.
Dubofsky believes none of us are going to get through late stage capitalism alive unless they know something we don’t but we can be actively anti-capitalists in our daily lives and in our writing lives; living in our brains, making sentences that can inspire and crush because we need to create words for the sake of them is anti-capitalism.
Writing is power and we can use that power to break the rules that attempt to dictate, not just how we write, start at the break of dawn, but what we write, what we’re told we should and should not write and how we talk about our work. Lifting it out of the morass of perspectivism and owning our identities as people who make stuff and who in the process create ourselves and the world around us.
Shafeeka Hafeez grew up escaping into a world of books where she discovered a love for writing and a fascination with trees. When she’s not taking up a new marketing skill, or typing out a blog post, you can find her Googling the best therapy for abandoned cats.