Best of the Year Lists etc

by eatonhamilton


JEHstatueThere have been some crotchety writers this week, one complaining about an ungenerous review, another complaining that she was left off an end-of-the-year Best Books list.

The emotional lives of writers are complicated things–most of us are crazily under-compensated (the Access Copyright cheques were down by over 20% this year because now universities aren’t paying when they copy our books), the average Canadian writer probably not managing to scrape up even 10 cents per hour worked.  Imagine that … toiling for nothing all year long, hoping for an eventual pay-out.

No one asked us to do it, for sure, but everyone benefits from it, from readers to publishers to distributors to book store clerks.

Being on the lists, getting good reviews, these things are more relevant to us than an outsider would guess.  These are what have domino effects on our long-term well-being–that let editors know they should invite us onto their lists, granting agencies understand that they should say yes to our proposals, festival organizers realize that they’d like to have us read next year.  These things become, in years hence, bankable.

And yet, and yet.  I’m in the enviable position of no longer particularly caring.  Yes, it’s gratifying when good things happen, and yes, I urgently need to earn a living, but, even so, there’s something to having left writing for 8 years that has loosened these visceral ties to ambition.  I wish I’d had the freedom I feel now when I was a young writer and everything was tooth and claw, because it’s good to be untethered, so so amazing to be untethered, to just write for the sheer enjoyment and satisfaction of the task.  I know I’ll be dead soon-as will we all in just 10 or 30 or 50 or 70 years, trifles all–but for the moment, even with the bills mounting, the financial future uncertain, I’m so gloriously alive, and so deliciously able to wield 26 letters.

It’s so much more than enough.