Why Spend Time Writing About Homeless People or Abandoned Animals?
Some people who've watched me struggle for years to make a living as a writer have asked me why I choose the subjects that I write about. They know I'm bi-polar and have CFS/ME and a few other challenges in life and gently try to suggest that maybe I should take what little creative energy I have and channel it into writing about subjects that are more popular and might bring in more money. I only get a few hours each morning when my mind is sharp and my creative juices flow. After that the brain fog, caused by CFS, rolls in and my body and brain really slow down. I understand my friends are just trying to be helpful and maybe they have a point.
First of all, I don't mean to whine by mentioning some of the challenges that I have in life, I've also been blessed in other ways and it probably all evens out. But the very things that have happened to me in my life, like being hungry, and broke, and struggling, have helped me to appreciate experiences and prioritize them in my own way.
For instance, there's a box and a shopping cart at the exit of the grocery store. It's for donations to local people who need food and can't afford it. I used to always buy an extra can or two or box of something and put it in the cart. Then I started just putting money in the box. I figure the money will be more useful and they can figure out what they need or want.
I can earn money to buy food and pay for all my expenses in life because I was blessed with the ability to write. Okay, I admit it, I'm not much of a writer, probably a hack by most standards, but even hacks get paid and it allows me to survive, despite my so-called disabilities. I don't know the stories of the people who receive that money, but I'll bet a lot of them are worse off than me. Maybe I'm feeding some kid a breakfast that he or she wouldn't have gotten without my paltry contribution.
The thing is, and I'm a little ashamed to say this, there are times when I'm tempted not to put anything in that box on my way out of the store with the food I've bought for myself.
It can be a real battle between my conscience and my anxiety. The conversation goes something like this, "Wil, your phone bill is past due and you've got just enough to pay it, now. You shouldn't be giving money away."
Then my conscience says, "Verizon is a big company and can wait a few days more for their money. These people can't wait. The phone bill will get paid. It will just be a little late."
The money goes in the box, I sweat out where my next check is coming from, it finally shows up and I pay the phone bill. It isn't always pretty, but that's how it works. I like to pay my bills on time, but even more, I like to help people. When I was younger I had dreams of writing the great American novel that would change the world. I realize now that isn't going to happen. On the other hand, if my writing makes a few bucks that buys someone a meal, that's something, and even though I can't change the whole world, maybe I can make a little bit of it better for a few hours.
Perhaps what I write about the homeless, downtrodden, and forgotten will do a little good in the same way. Maybe a stranger will read what I've written and instead of ignoring a homeless man or woman, will turn and offer a dollar or spare change and maybe a kind word. Many homeless people have access to the internet so maybe some of them will find this and realize they're not forgotten and there are people in this tired old world who really do care about them.
Yes, I could write about other subjects and maybe I'd make more money, but I don't think I could write about them as well as I write about the things that I care about, because I was a hungry kid once and I've slept in my car. Who knows, I might be sleeping in my car again some day?
So I'll keep writing about people who have problems or animals that need a human friend, because as rough as my writing is, it's from my heart and that's the only way I can write. For more about writing from the heart, read When a Writer's Heart is Broken, When You've Lost Your Spark.
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