Blog of the Week: Holly Sets the Record Straight

Holly Herrick

This week brought many a standout—from newcomer Cullen’s pot-stirring recap of the ref debacle, to Jane’s schooling post on why we should strive for excellence and pass on perfection. But when the chips fell, it was Holly’s straight-talking fact vs. fiction breakdown that won us over. A clear, lively case for what a writing career is and is not—a case that holds true, in fact, for all creative professions (which our fair city just so happens to have in abundance). The one bubble that's been burst: our hopes of seeing a beret-wearing Holly sipping espresso in $800 stilettos. Alas, we'll go to Carrie for that. 



After nearly 20 years playing the writing game, I should not be surprised by the pervasive and prolific stereotypes that are out there about what writers do and how writers live. Yet, when someone I trust and respect said to me (in so many words) earlier this week, "You should get a real job," I was stunned. I was so stunned that, in spite of my pride, I cried. And, just for some Victorian fun, he threw in "....or marry a rich guy." Ummmm, last I checked the year is 2012 and I proudly wear a well-earned badge of independence which I have no interest in surrendering to anyone, rich or poor.

All this got me to thinking it may be time to take a reality check on what writing, at least for me, is not and what it is. Let's begin with the nots. It is not about sipping cafe au lait at a Parisian cafe, sporting a beret and scribbling mindlessly on a note pad. It is not Carrie Bradshaw going to glitz and glam parties in NYC, seemingly every night, wearing $800 shoes. It is not sleeping 'til noon every day and slipping in a couple hours of work here and there. It is not glamorous, it is not easy, and it is not another name for dilettante. And, finally, it is not just about the writing - there are contracts to pursue, books to promote, blogs to write, platforms to build, and lots and lots of editing.

Writing cookbooks, ultimately, is very hard work.  It is long days in the kitchen creating and testing recipes, and that includes the shopping before and the clean-up during and after. It is sitting down and doing the job, not just dreaming or talking about it, which requires extreme discipline.  It's long periods between royalty checks and reaffirming  conversations with editors and agents. In short, it's tough!

But, the reason I do it is because I love it and it's one of the things, besides cooking, that I do best. I can do the cooking in my cheerful kitchen with my best friend and dog Tann Mann at my feet, and I can do the writing in my cheerful office over-looking my pretty garden while listening to the sounds of the neighborhood kids laughing or a distant dog barking. As wonderful as all of that is, it doesn't touch the satisfaction of holding each new book for the first time, or hearing from appreciative readers about their favorite recipes.

These are the things that make my job utterly worthwhile and very, very "real." I am very thankful to have it.