Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Writing and Money 2

Nora Jemisin commented on the same essay as I did. Her comment reminds me that my experience, coming of age in 1960s and 70s, is very different from the experience of younger writers. I came out of graduate school with no student debt. The economy was in the middle of a wartime boom. Unions were still strong enough to push up wages for almost everyone. It was possible to live on minimum wage. I was able to scrape by because times were not so bad. The way I managed as a writer -- by working full time, then taking time off to write, or by working part time -- is much harder to pull off now.

This is the second time recently I have been reminded that my ideas are stuck in the past. I read an essay about a woman who had taken her kids to Ikea to eat, but couldn't afford to eat herself. (Ikea apparently offers free meals for kids.) She ended weeping from hunger and frustration. The essay is about getting worn down by poverty. The woman's story was ordinary. Her husband lost his good job and was now working two jobs, which did not -- together -- add up to a living wage. They went through their savings and were struggling to survive, though they had always been careful with money and had no debt when the husband lost his job.

Patrick read it and was not surprised. He worked with homeless people for many years. I kept thinking, "Surely there is some way out." But I am thinking in terms of my own experience in the 1960s and 70s.

This is another reason, by the way, why the young author should have banked her money and kept her day job. This economy is simply too hard.


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