HOW THE PEN GOT IT WRONG
I received a questionnaire recently from PEN, a writer’s organization that promotes literature and advocates for artists around the world — particularly those who find themselves in repressive societies. I breezed through the questions until I came across one which asked if I was a professional writer or was my writing a hobby. I paused, wishing I had better choices. I am a person who writes several hours every day and sometimes gets paid for my effort but not always. I decided to mark the box that said “hobby.” But in truth, I don’t think of my writing as a hobby. I think of my writing as a serious pursuit that it allows me to share my thoughts with others.
Several weeks ago, a member of Facebook wrote to ask if having his opinion published in a Letter to the Editor column meant he was a writer. My answer was yes. He had an issue that moved him; he wrote down his thoughts and they were conveyed to others. That IS being a writer. Some do it better than others but writing is no more to be relegated to “professionals” than speaking.
What is this human passion for labels? Why must we suggest that some of us are more “special” than others? I received a letter today from a friend, a father who’s lost touch with his son. His words tore at my heart. Was that grief-ridden communication so eloquently expressed not writing? It was. It was!
Let us have no more talk of hobbyists and professional writers. Language belongs equally to us all.