The writing life is seen as a romantic one, at least by some—usually people who don’t write, or merely dabble at the craft.
Since 2003, I’ve been a writer who works a job. By that I mean that I’m not fully supporting my lifestyle from writing. I have an outside job (or jobs); those purer than the driven snow might look askance at that.
Actually, while there are the fortunate ones populating best-seller lists (or with trust funds) living in brownstones in Brooklyn, or maybe there are still expat writers on the French Riviera, most of us rely on outside gigs to keep our crafts from flatlining. I wish I could say that my quarterly royalty checks keep me in splendor, but they don’t. It’s the new face of publishing—kinder; gentler.
Kurt Vile is a musician I’m fond of. No overnight success, Vile’s music is firmly rooted in the best of rock and roll’s rich tradition. Rather than merely aping what others have done, he’s channeled the best of American rock for the past 40 years through his own unique vision and sensibilities.
While climbing up the rock and roll ladder, Vile worked in a factory as a forklift driver. His blue-collar existence consisted of work, coming home, showering, eating, and then working on and recording in his basement into a four-track, often into the wee hours. Then, it was 2-3 hours of sleep and back at it again.
From an interview I found online, Vile talked about the difficulties of working and making music.
“It was a really fast-paced job, unloading trucks. Though music was my passion, I had a long way to go then (back in the early 2000s) and a lot to learn. I got depressed so many times by my blue-collar life, and self-conscious about the fact that I didn’t go to college and I was always working these super low-end jobs, being the complete opposite of what I wanted to be. But I just fell into it, and I was also sorta shy. It was definitely a pretty rough time.”
Vile’s finally made it. He’s on a great, supportive label, Matador. His albums now garner favorable reviews in places like Pitchfork, and even Rolling Stone. He’s supporting himself and a family from his music. I’m happy for him. Driving a fork lift is something that you sometimes have to do, but it’s not the best way to cultivate art, like music, or even writing.