“My Fiction Quill Lay Unused” — Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel HawthorneAt one time, I was commissioned by Chelsea House Publishing to write a series of what they referred to as bio-critiques.  I wrote the bio for a number of noted novelists, and another author wrote the critique section of the book.

One of the authors I was privileged to write about was Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Studying and researching about his life brought me to a deep appreciation of this man.

Addicted To Writing Novels

Nathaniel Hawthorne was addicted to writing novels in a day and age when novels weren’t that acceptable nor popular.  And all he ever wanted to do was spend time on his novels spinning stories.

I so related to his heart’s cry.

However, just like for all of us, life interrupted.  Hawthorne had to make a living for his family.  He worked at the Salem Custom-House – a job he despised.  During this time, he wrote in a letter to a friend,

“My fiction quill lay unused.”

Those words were so poignant and heart-wrenching to me, I scribbled them on a little post-it note and stuck it on my computer monitor.  Later, the sticky wore off, so I taped it.  There it remained for many years.  Because, like Hawthorne, my fiction quill lay unused.  And it broke my heart.

Earning a Living

Through the years, (as a single, self-supporting female) I tried a number of ways to earn a living without having to give up my entire being – so I could continue to write.

One such instance was selling insurance.  I thought perhaps I could earn a living and still have time and energy to write. (Not.)   I studied all the materials, took the test, passed the test, joined a small agency near where I lived and embarked on a rather lucrative adventure.

This particular type of sales involved travel.  We came to the office on Friday for a sales meeting and to receive our “leads” and to learn our “sales area” for the following week.  I left town early Tuesday morning.  I followed up on appointments Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, returning home on Thursday night.

Ironically, I was good at selling insurance; I was earning a good income; and yet I was miserable.  I quickly learned that this lifestyle left me totally void of time or energy to create fiction.  This income-producing endeavor lasted more than three years.

Like Hawthorne, My fiction quill lay unused. 

I Quit!

Finally I could bear it no longer. I began saving my money.  I had an amount in my mind that I would need to carry me over to complete a certain novel.  When that amount was in my savings, I quit and picked up my fiction quill and finished my novel. Oh the joy…!

As for Hawthorne, he was laid off.  That’s right, he lost his job.  What did he do?  Finished his novel!  Just like any dedicated novelist would do.

Nathaniel Hawthorne and I are many hundreds of years apart, cultures apart, and circumstances as different as night and day – and yet our hearts are so similar.

Your Fiction Quillquill-parchment

So where is your fiction quill?  Are you miserable because it’s been abandoned?  What can you do to allow you to pick it up again and put an end to your misery?

If Hawthorne did it; if I did it – so can you!

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If you’d rather listen, here’s a YouTube version of this post in “The Writing Life” series.

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