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Writing Life: Voices of Experience
Mimi Greenwood Knight : A Privileged Life

A Privileged Life

By Mimi Greenwood Knight

I've never been big on declaring resolutions mainly because I don't like failure. Plus, if something's worth throwing myself behind, why wait until January 1? Because I don't want to do it. That's why. And, if I don't want to do it, I probably won't — not for long anyway. And there's that failure thing again.

But this year I'm breaking my resolution not to resolve by committing (a less intimidating word) to enjoy the adventure of weaving words for a living — not to take for granted, even for one day, the gift of being paid for something I'd do even if there wasn't a dime in it for me. I hereby pledge to truly appreciate this life we call Freelance Writing.

From the time I could talk, I was a storyteller. I told stories whether anybody listened or not — and with eleven other kids in the house, they usually didn't. Then one day I discovered I could write those stories down and maybe — just maybe — someone would buy them and toss them out into the world at large where somebody else might read them.

How amazing is it to do that and call it a living — how incredible to earn an income making rich, organic compost out of the doo doo life throws my way? The bookstores are full of books bemoaning the difficulty of the writing life — the loneliness, the rejection — the Carpal Tunnel. It's all true. But what's that compared to receiving an email from a stranger, who just had to write to tell you how you made her laugh, cry, remember, or reevaluate her life.

There's the waking up and wondering if, while I was asleep, someone read something I wrote — and liked it. There's the sitting in a doctor's office and noticing the person across from me is reading my story in a magazine and not turning the page.

It's a privileged life — not privileged materially — unless your last name is Grisham or Rowling or King — but lavishly indulgent in other ways. I hereby pinky swear to wake up each of the next 365 days and celebrate the writing life — a life where I can get caught in a weak moment and buy a fortune in cutlery from a starving college kid then turn around, write an essay about it and recoup the price of my extravagance, a life where I can pay tribute to the teacher who loved my child above and beyond then hand her a copy of a book with her story inside. I vow to appreciate enduring a flat-tire, broke-a-crown, cat-puke-on-the-carpet, Hey! These-jeans-zipped-last-week kind of day, and realizing it's all just fodder for an essay?

How many people have gotten a call from a cousin saying, "Mama read the stories you sent her. It's the first time she's laughed since Daddy died" or a note from a young mom somewhere saying, "I have an old yellowed copy of a parenting story you wrote. On my toughest days at home with the kids, I get it out and read it. Thank you."?

And not many mamas can threaten their kids with, "Y'all better cut it out or I'm gonna' write a story about this." Of course, not many of them have sat through Thanksgiving dinner planning the explanation they'll give when their in-laws confront them about the tongue-in-cheek essay they wrote about them for a national magazine — a story which, to this day, I don't think my in-laws discovered. Big phew.

So let my friends resolve to live on a budget, keep a cleaner house and lose their muffin top. I do solemnly promise, proclaim and pledge to fall in love all over again with the career of my dreams, to enjoy every metaphor, every dénouement, every byline and that all-too-rare fan letter that make up a benefits package no other occupation could surpass. •

© Mimi Greenwood Knight

Mimi Greenwood Knight is an artist in residence and freelance writer living in Folsom, Louisiana with her husband, David, four kids, three cats and five dogs. More »

7/19/08