In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know.
My guest today is perhaps the nicest guy in Aussie spec fic, and someone who had been very encouraging to me both personally and professionally. He is so likeable I can’t even hate him for his vast talent–it’s Jason Franks!
There’s a lot of discussion right now about how writers make their living. In Australia, mean income for authors fell from $23,000 per year to $11,000 in the decade leading up to 2011. I don’t know what’s happened since then but I doubt the situation has improved. Fewer and fewer of us can make a living from writing, despite the fact that the indie boom and the rise of the ebook and digital printing has made it possible for more and more of us to be published than ever.
I’m a low-tier prose and comics writer with mostly indie-publishing credits to my name. I’ve been published overseas and I have had a few of my works properly distributed but could categorize myself as ‘semi-professional’. By semi-pro I’m not alluding to word rates or membership in writers’ organizations–I mean that I can and do write work that is good enough to be published. I sometimes attract small gigs by virtue of my earlier work, which is very gratifying. But I don’t like to call myself a professional writer, because I don’t make my living from it. I make my living writing software.
If I have a good writing and I see a few thousand dollars income from writing. Most years it’s a lot less than that. I say ‘income’, but if you look at the amount of money I spend on artwork, attending conventions, networking, promotions, web hosting and so on, that figure in most years is probably negative in most years. I could have spent the hours I’ve poured into writing time doing income-generating work. I could run a very healthy side-business writing software or building websites in that time. But I don’t. Writing is my passion.
Like I’m the majority of productive writers, I have to make a real effort to find the time and headspace to ply my craft. My wife Yuri, bless her, is very forgiving of me. I’ve spent many nights and weekends and holiday seasons with my nose to the keyboard. This holiday season past I put in a full eight hours a day every day from December 25th until January 2nd with my fingers on the keyboard trying to meet my deadlines. I wouldn’t have traded it, but maybe Yuri would have liked a weekend away from the house where she had my undivided attention. She certainly deserves one.
My writing work consumes me. I’m a terrible, absent-minded, selfish human being; always with half of my brain enmeshed in some problem I’m trying to solve in about how imaginary people will navigate some trial or travail. I let myself believe that most writers are probably like this. I fantasize that I could have nights and weekends like a normal human being if writing was my day job, but I’ve tried it a few times (my longest stint as a full time writer went for six months) and I know for a fact that my writing workload grows to fill the amount of time I have. I am by nature a workaholic and I sometimes resent activities that keep me from writing–even stuff that I love doing, like watching movies or going to concerts or making an awful racket on the guitar.
So what’s a writer gonna do? Keep on hustling. The more work you put out the better chance you have that something will do well enough to get me to the next level, or at least help me defray expenses. It’s my passion, chums. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t love it.
Jason Franks writes comics, prose and source code. His first novel, BLOODY WATERS, was short-listed for the 2012 Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel.
He is the author of the graphic novels THE SIXSMITHS and McBLACK, as well as numerous short stories in prose and comics. A collection of his mainstream short stories was collected in UNGENRED by Black House Comics.
Franks has published work in most genres, but he is most comfortable at in the speculative fiction spectrum–particularly at its darker reaches. Franks’ writing is often humorous and his stories frequently engage in metafiction. His protagonists are likely to be villains or anti-heroes and the Devil is a recurring figure in his work.
Franks has lived in South Africa, the USA and Japan. He currently resides in Melbourne, Australia.