Today marks the 120th observance of Labor Day, first established as a Federal Holiday in 1894, after decades of labor union members getting their heads bashed in for striking for better working conditions.
Last Saturday I attended a social function with my wife's co-workers. Many of them didn't know each other and thus were introduced and asked, "What do you do?" The same was asked of spouses. "What do you do?" Most of the attendees were engineers, programmers and various managers.
No one asked me what I did for a living?
What would I have said? "I'm a writer" and then get that look of "Have I read your book?"
Answer is no. I'm still looking for an agent.
Is writing labor? Do I work under hazardous conditions? I work near the kitty door to the garage and I can smell the kitty box when Sugar takes a dump. She's a sweet cat, but she lays some stinkers. I'm probably inhaling minuscule kitty litter particles as I type. I eat my scrambled eggs over the key board and a crumb or two spill in between the keys. Will I create a bacteria hazard?
Writing isn't the same as digging a ditch. I went camping last month and it rained for three days, so I dug a trench around the tent, thinking of that old adage, "If you don't go to college, you'll end up digging ditches."
My wrists and fingers ache sometimes after a long stint at the keyboard. I slam the keys hard when I type, a habit leftover from ye olden days of the typewriter.
Is my labor valuable? No one has ever tried to steal my work. I've been mugged, but Senor Mugger was after my wallet. He didn't say, "Gimme your YA Contemporary manuscript or I'm gonna stick ya!"
To which I would have responded, "The word 'gonna' is not grammatically correct. You could say, 'I'm going to stab you with my sharp knife, thus damaging your liver and inflicting bodily pain. Therefore, you should yield to my demand and hand over your manuscript.'" Though I imagine by this time, I'd be lying in the street bleeding to death sans manuscript and wallet.
I do feel pride in my work. I study the craft. I learn from others. I have joined an organization and networked with others with similar interests. I read about author success stories. I've read about writers arrested and murdered for their work. I recall reading a warning, "At the beginning of a dictatorship, poets and writers are the first to be arrested."
I haven't had my head bashed in for protesting for better working conditions, though my daughters bought me a keyboard tray for I wouldn't have to type on my lap. My wrists feel better, thank you ladies.
But I always think about stories. Yours and mine. Well, mostly mine. I struggle over nouns, verbs, adjectives, character, misspellings, plot, metaphor, and the question "Will this damn thing ever sell?"
Back to work.