You’re Supposed to be a Writer

 Michael Prihoda 

1.You’re supposed to be a writer. You go through the motions of all the trite banalities according to their typical substance. You think about drinking more than you actually drink and you wonder how a cigarette might look balanced against your lips. But you savor the virginity of your lungs. 

2. You almost buy into that starving artist ethos until you realize having a day job is entirely possible. It’s hard to call yourself a writer, hard to hold that label as anything beyond a hobby like raising goats and chickens, which, you think, isn’t so bad a metaphor. Your little creations nurtured to something workable enough to show other eyes, or not, who knows.

3. You’re supposed to have erratic, long-suffering affairs with other neurotic artist types but you marry young and don’t regret it. You’re supposed to be deeply depressed, occasionally manic when gripped by creation’s electricity, holed into a basement somewhere dreaming up the next tour de force while bent over the bleached keys of a rusting typewriter. You own a typewriter, true, though mostly as a gimmick, and you’ve been properly medicated for years.

4. You are supposed to have a conflicted relationship with parents, relatives, acquaintances, all who tentatively embrace your eager desire to be famous while keeping any talent you may have at arms length in case no talent exists. Or, put better, no talent that anyone will pay for. Unfortunately, your rocky years with parents finished in late adolescence and, sans deprecation, your talent is middling, appropriately so, without tragedy or farce.

5. You know, really you do, that you’re supposed to have a circle of close friends who wile away their days in excessive life, pretending to write something canonical while they smoke blunts and pull six packs into their circumferences like a circle of bacchanal octopi. You have never known someone close to you who doesn’t have a job or isn’t looking for one. You are born of hard, seasoned Midwestern stock.

6. You are supposed to feel assured in revealing aspects of your personal life through intimate essays where you expose all the suffering that has visited you throughout life. But you always hesitate to say anything about yourself or your family. Life has been, continues to be, more or less good to you.

7.  You’re supposed to be a writer. Meaning you take notes incessantly and always have pen and paper handy. You wish you could magic things to your side. You wish you bothered to jot those brilliant ideas down at night instead of letting them waft away into nothing, choosing, yet again, sleep, over against other pursuits as you seem to do.

8. You are supposed to be caught always in dreamland, filling notebooks to bursting with sketches of poems, lines, metaphors, epiphanies. Grabbing things from speech of passersby. Moments and reflections you will codify into your first novel, which may or may not win some transient award but will definitely be praised by everyone you know, at least to your face. You are supposed to worry about everyone’s imperceptible opinion of you as a writer, i.e. you as a person, since they are supposed to be the same thing since writing is an expression of the soul and if someone rejected you as a writer it means they rejected you as a viable human being and you should probably respond by giving up on any future pursuits of literary prowess. You are supposed to stress about bad reviews and rejections but you acclimate quickly to regular rejection and replace self-pity with doing things that aren’t writing. You have nobody to impress as nobody is knocking on your door for your next powerful piece of prose. Nobody has ever called your prose powerful and you think that is okay, power isn’t exactly what you’re going for.

9. You are supposed to spend hours, days even, revising and editing all your sentences into brand new sentences but most of the time you never touch a thing after you write it, deciding offhandedly whether to send it somewhere or allow it the obscurity it may deserve. You think every word has or had a purpose and can’t be desecrated by removal. Just obscurity somewhere in the dregs of one of your solid-state hard drives.

10. You’re supposed to be a writer. You write sometimes. Sometimes people say nice things about what you’ve written. You’ve even touched printed paper with your words on it that someone else cared enough to spend ample time with and ultimately physically publish. You’re not sure why. Not even when it happens more than once. You think: this might be enough. You think: this is enough. You are a writer.