Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ellie the Essayist

When I was in high school there was a question on a test in English class. Ralph Waldo Emerson was _____________________________. The answer was an essayist. Even back then I thought How do you get that job? and Who pays you?

Now all these years later I know the answer to both questions.

How do you get to be an essayist? Write essays. Actually a few hundred years after Emerson's birth his genre is is still going strong, even enjoying a new popularity in blogs and 'last page' essays. Some of the major publications in the U.S. have a personal essay. Newsweek has its MY TURN and Smithsonian Magazine has THE LAST PAGE. To be an essayist, you write essays. You can be a dancer even if you earn a living otherwise. You can be a painter or pianist, if that is what you do. To be an essayist, you write essays. What to do with your essays? That beings us to the second question.

Who pays you? Probably nobody. The point of Writing Thru It is that the process itself has its own value. Working out the order of words, sentences and paragraphs has its own rewards. That's your pay. The recollections that surface, the further practice of your writing skills - those are probably going to be what you get. You can show the work to friends, workshop it in a writing group or class or online site. You'll probably get some nice compliments, maybe some truly snarky remarks. You can submit it for publication or post it on your blog. Who'll pay you? You'll be paying yourself.


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