Got Wine or Got Books? by Catharine Bramkamp

Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Catharine Bramkamp as she shares with us “Got Wine or Got Books?”


I read that after Shakespeare retired, he ended his days in Stratford on Avon as a rather bourgeoisie gentleman. He had saved his money, bought real estate, and avoided his wife.

He was reasonably famous in his town and was not remarkably generous.

In a word, the man was a bit boring.

Write popular plays, drink responsibly, make money: invest.

Write a few sonnets on the side focused on unrequited love because we don’t know if the love was requited.

Not the stuff of plays. Certainly, not worthy of even one People Magazine cover story.

And we are disappointed.

We want frustrated Fitzgerald and mad Zelda.

We want tortured Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf’s affairs.

We want the binge drinking of Tennessee Williams, Cheever, Carver and Hemingway.

We want authors who sail the Pacific, drive ambulances in Spain, hunt elephants in Africa.

We want them as colorful as their work.

Which is part of the fun.

But perhaps not part of what it takes to write.

Since Shakespeare did not spend a month on safari, he had time to write another play.

We don’t hear a word about Sue Grafton’s personal life as she works her way through the alphabet.

I don’t know if Chaucer was a wild and crazy guy or not.

Are we writing a story or are we the story?

This is no small question in a world packed with beautiful selfies on social media.

Do we need to be large personalities to sell books or can we just write and sell the darn books without inserting ourselves into every promotion?

Does fame demand self-description and do really smart and admittedly sober authors already know this?  

Shakespeare did. His was an uncertain and troubled time with favored religions switching back and forth with each new monarch. A person who didn’t call attention to himself would not only do well, they would survive.

Keeping your head down and just doing the work is a very different ideal than what we see today. 

The most colorful, dramatic, and crazy person seems to get the book deals, not the hard worker.

And that does work for an hour or two. 

You absolutely can be crazier than the next person, burst out for a calculated fifteen minutes, push your book up to the top of the Amazon list. Bask in the bonfire’s glow.

Collapse in the inevitable ash heap of ignominy.

A little harsh, but you get the idea.

That is the question to ask: Do we want to write one book, be famous for our allotted fifteen minutes, and spend the rest of our lives living with the fall out: the bankruptcies, the robberies, the insults, the unflattering photos that will never go away?

Do you want to be famous or be a writer?

If those two are intertwined, then yes, go on a gin fueled binge and film it. Insert yourself into the now and pay later.

Or maybe you just want to make a living and retire with your head still attached.

Buy real estate, move back to your home town. You can choose to support more charities or not. Maybe you can help out a starving artist or two and keep them off the street, and off Snap Chat. Maybe there are many more books in you. You never know.



Catharine BramkampCatharine Bramkamp is the co-producer of Newbie Writers Podcast that focuses on newer writers and their concerns. She is a successful writing coach, Chief Storytelling Officer, and author of a dozen books including the Real Estate Diva Mysteries series, and The Future Girls series. She holds two degrees in English and is an adjunct university professor. After fracturing her wrist, she has figured out there is very little she is able to do with one hand tied behind her back.

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