Wednesday, March 12, 2014


by Clare O'Donohue

Question of the Week: What period of history, from the invention of the printing press to yesterday, was the best time to be a writer?

Boy, this is a tough one. I think anytime would be good to be a writer, frankly. We are the keepers of the stories. When is that not a cool job?

But as Susan rightly pointed out, there are times when it can come at the very high cost of one's head. Actually Robin made the same point, only in her case - Paris in the 20s, it would be her kidneys that paid the price.

Renaissance Europe, 1920s Paris, or another romantic writerly time, Greenwich Village in the late 50s, through the 60s.... there was a belief that each had in common.That creating - whether it was  art, music, or literature - was important. Even necessary. As someone who spends her time writing, quilting, painting, and dabbling in a half dozen other visual arts, it's a belief I can get behind.

I think what made these times, among others, stand out in our collective imaginations is that very creative people congregated together, shared their ideas, fed off each other's energy, and ultimately made each other better writers and artists.

And they had a lot of casual sex and drank too much. 

I think, for me at least, it's less about the specific time period and more the attraction of like minded souls. It's being with people who couldn't get through a day without creating something. I write, quilt, paint, bake, and dabble in half a dozen different arts. I have friends who are artists, actors, and musicians. Being around them inspires me, makes me better at the things that I do, and just plain makes me happy.

For me, anytime where creative people hang out together is the best time. And these days we have so many ways to do that...

Facebook and Twitter might not have the same allure as a Paris salon, but it keeps us in touch with far more people....

Organizations like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime remind us that though we have individual goals and ambitions, we have a shared love of words....   

And mystery conventions and book fairs may be only a weekend here and there, but it puts us in the same room where we can  share ideas and feed off each other's energy.

So like Susan and Robin, I choose now as the best time to be a writer.

Though, if anyone is having casual sex and/ or drinking too much I must be must be missing it.


Robin Spano said...

Ha ha, I love your musings. New York in the hippie era sounds pretty great too, I must admit.

I don't know about casual sex either. (I'm married so would be left out of that loop anyway.) But I'd say a lot of debaucherous drinking goes on at Bouchercon...

Susan C Shea said...

Yes, you've hit on what makes these times so memorable - the critical mass of people who share the same passion for creating, the willingness to risk a lot in the effort, and the support and open-handed respect they offer each other Good post!

Clare ODonohue said...

I do think it's really that simple, wherever creative people hang out it's going to be a fun, and inspiring, experience - whatever the time period. And whatever time period that is - I'll be missing out on the casual sex and late night drinking (well, the casual sex anyway...)