This Writer’s Life by Drusilla Campbell
You know my husband, Art. Well, he came home from work the other day with a wicked little smile on his face. I had to tease the joke out of him. Apparently someone he knows at the Y had recently seen copies of both The Good Sister and The Edge of the Sky for sale at Costco and Target and said something to him about what it was like being married to a “celebrity.” Art went along with him, thinking the question was a joke. Turned out, the anonymous exerciser had asked the question seriously. He assumed I was making huge bucks and dining on fois gras.
In case any of you are living under the same illusion, let me tell you about this writer’s life.
First off, I am forever grateful that I’m married to a man who thinks part of his role in life is to support the arts because it would be a stretch to support myself on what I earn writing novels. True, the royalty checks are bigger now than they were a year ago, but unless you’re a First Book Wonderkid, publishers today reward success. The books I write have to sell well which means readers have to want to read the one that’s currently selling and look forward to the next one. So far, I’ve been lucky.
Writing isn’t easy. I work every day except during football season when I often take Sunday off. Art plays polo on Saturdays and when I’m in the middle of a book, I miss his matches until he starts to feel neglected and I get guilt cramps. The truth is, I’m hard to live with. Writing novels is obsessive work and occupies a huge portion of my conscious mind. I have tried to compartmentalize, but it doesn’t work for me.
I try to exercise three or four times a week at Club Pilates on Morena. Walking should be a good exercise for a writer, but I am uneasy away from my laptop. For me, horseback riding is just plain dangerous. I forget I’m sitting on a thousand pound beast who’s afraid of plastic bags.
I used to be a pretty terrific cook although my sons – to this day!—make gagging sounds when I remind them of the Gourmet Magazine recipe for fish stew. Nowadays I’m tired by five p.m. and save my creative cooking for holidays and special occasions. We eat out several times a week. Somewhere glamorous with a dress code that includes Levis and tennis shoes.
The main difference in my life now as compared to ten years ago, is that when I sit down to work for four or five hours a day, I know what I’m doing. The process of learning to write, of falling off my horse and getting back in the saddle hundreds of time, has given me – finally – a measure of success as the world defines it. The result is that my confidence has grown and that’s a bigger deal than the money I’m paid because for twenty years, I wrote with only fleeting periods of confidence. Mostly I sucked on the fumes of hope and made myself keep on writing.
Hope still plays a big part in my writing life. I hope I’ll live to be a healthy old woman like my mother and that my sons will keep me wired into the latest electronic marvel so I can keep on writing novels until the very end. I hope Art never stops supporting the arts and loving me. I hope that every book gets better and more people want to read a novel by Drusilla Campbell. If they don’t, I’ll keep writing anyway because that’s my life. I’m a writer.
Drusilla Campbell is Board President of San Diego Writers, Ink. Before settling in San Diego, she lived and worked in Australia, London, Central America, California and Appalachia. After receiving her MA she worked for WAMU-FM, the NPR affiliate in Washington, DC where she was an on-air personality. She’s published more than sixteen novels including the best selling Blood Orange and, most recently, The Good Sister. Drusilla is the creator of NovelCram, two day boot camp for aspiring novelists. She frequently speaks at writing conferences and has taught classes in crafting the novel at UC Fullerton, University of California at San Diego, The Writing Center, The Writer’s Room and San Diego Writers, Ink. Drusilla is married to the poet and law professor, Art Campbell. They have two children, two rescued dogs and four horses.