Quite often, an article will come out and make the rounds of my writerly social circles, popping up seemingly everywhere, and exciting much comment and discussion. When it simultaneously gets posted all over the place and by a range of people or sites, it’s a good indication that it has touched a nerve or tapped into a subject that is of concern to a lot of people.
Recently, the provocatively titled “Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from” seemed to be everywhere, and have everyone talking. From the article:
Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga midday. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.
All that disclosure is crass, I know. I’m sorry. Because in this world where women will sit around discussing the various topiary shapes of their bikini waxes, the conversation about money (or privilege) is the one we never have. Why? I think it’s the Marie Antoinette syndrome: Those with privilege and luck don’t want the riffraff knowing the details. After all, if “those people” understood the differences in our lives, they might revolt. Or, God forbid, not see us as somehow more special, talented and/or deserving than them.
In my opinion, we do an enormous “let them eat cake” disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed. I can’t claim the wealth of the first author (not even close); nor do I have the connections of the second. I don’t have their fame either. But I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job.
Thinking back to when I was first starting out (not that I claim to be to much further up the ladder or anything) I remember having some major illusions about the whole writing thing. I assumed that most of the established writers I knew wrote full time and were able to support themselves in doing so through the books and stories they sold. I have to admit this created some false expectations of what I could expect, and a degree of pressure in my own mind about making money out of writing.
I think that many writers first starting out have similar ideas. We might look at the J.K. Rowlings of the world and assume that with our first book we can quit our day job and write full time. The setting up of false expectations can be very damaging when you don’t immediately take off. Juggling your creative time with a full time job can be draining at the best of times, how much more so when you feel like the time put into writing is being wasted because it isn’t immediately a huge success? And, what about people who have to juggle being a parent or a full time carer as well? People with a chronic illness? How do they cope?
Because this is a personal issue, we often keep it to ourselves. Worse, sometimes we don’t talk about it because we think everyone else is living the rockstar writer lifestyle and we are the only ones struggling to find that balance–and we don’t want to look like a failure. I thought this was a subject worth exploring, and hopefully seeing how others deal with these challenges might a) help new writers realise they aren’t alone b) give us all ideas that might help.
So, I asked a range of writers and editors if they would be willing to share their experiences, and open up about how they balance writing with more mundane but essential things like paying the bills, or making sure they are spending time with their family. I hope that it helps other authors and editors out there see that they aren’t alone, and helps them set realistic expectations. This is where the title comes from–how do we pay for our passion for writing, whether in money, time or the things we have to give up?
If you want to contribute a piece to this please feel free to contact me – I am after a range of experiences so you don’t need to have been around for years (though more experienced writers are definitely welcome, too).
I am really looking forward to reading these posts, and hearing your thoughts.
Profiled so far:
Laura E. Goodin
Amanda J Spedding
Andrew J McKiernan
Fergus Hume via Lucy Sussex
Narrelle M. Harris
Donna Maree Hanson