I'm a Hustler Ba-bay....well, sort of

Most days I feel lazy compared to other writers that I know. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah, cojones, hustle—whatever you want to call it—to make a living as a writer, and I have not had the appetite for the hustle that I’ve seen in other people. What’s the writer’s hustle, you ask? In addition to creating work that she can publish, a writer has the following to worry about:

1) Her day job (which may include grading stacks of papers)
2) Her family life (which may include menial tasks like fixing a porch light, replacing a broken trampoline, repairing struts on her car, going to the grocery store hundreds of times each *%$!!!?% month. Ahem.)
3) Reading her work in public
4) The pursuit of writing awards
5) Attending and contributing to writing conferences and workshops
6) Applying for writing residencies and grants (so that she can actually write)
7) Submitting her work to journals, contests, agents, publishers
8) Remaining sober and happy

I’ve been timid to go at this list full tilt, but this year I’ve placed my toes in the water. For the first time, I’ve applied for grants and residencies and I’ve submitted my work (over and over) at a frequency that approaches obsessive compulsive disorder. It is a lot of work especially because the deadlines all seem to fall at the same time of the year.

For me, applying for residencies produced the most anxiety. It also caused writers block, self doubt, pity, anger, and euphoria (once I finally got through the applications). The application process forced me to examine my goals as a writer and in the end I felt a clearer sense of purpose. I also wondered why I’ve been reluctant to pursue writing residencies or other brass rings on the list. I suspect that my gender, race and regional background have played a part in my reluctance. Black Midwestern Episcopalian wives are not known to be real aggressive.

But fear of rejection is probably a bigger factor than my cultural background. No one likes to be rejected. The question we always ask is What are the judges looking for? Are they looking for writers similar to themselves? As Thirty Mile Woman wrote in her blog post about applying for residencies,
“I often wonder what chance emerging writers have at these residencies that are so shrouded in acclaim and prestige. Would they want their writers (and other artists) to be just as accomplished as they are?”
It is a good question. We’ll see.


  1. Renee~ I would add to that: networking, networking, networking. You go to readings, lit events, journal release parties. You talk up people who have influence, who are big names and control the scene. Schmooze, basically.

    Granted, you're going about it the noble way. Right now, I need to do more of what you're doing~ except at the bare basics: writing.

    I envy you; I am proud of you. Keep it up, hon!

  2. You are so right and I am so mediocre at networking. How is Chicago? Are you networking a lot?

  3. I have found that artists colonies have a wide range of artists-- some unpublished. The appilicants compete against others in thier cohort. So don't worry!