Thursday, October 20, 2016

October Post

Once again I am not keeping up my blog. We are having a lovely October, bright and clear. The trees are golden. The sky is autumn blue, which is a different color from summer blue or winter blue.

This is from an online discussion of writing as a career and writing as something privileged:

One thing I noticed decades ago is there is a fair amount of good poetry by working people, but not many novels. You can write poetry in your head while on the line or pushing a broom around, then take a bathroom break and write the poem down in the bathroom and put it in your jeans. Harder to do this with a novel. Though I wrote my first novel on the job -- and got fired. I am not into fish meds, so always had a day job, except when I got fired or laid off, which happened fairly often. My work career was working, full or part time, quitting or getting fired, writing full time for a while, then finding another job. About 15 years before I retired, I realized I needed to make more money in order to push up my social security payments. So I worked close to full time for 10 or 15 years. Where did privilege come into this, anyway?

(The reference to fish meds came from a comment by someone else in the discussion. He knew a writer so poor that he could not afford prescription drugs for human beings, so he took drugs that were designed for pet fish.)

I don't see writing as a sign of privilege. Well, it helps to be able to read and write, but literacy is fairly high in the US. I don't think people know what privilege means. "A right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others, a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud, the advantage that wealthy and powerful people have over other people in a society." Writing is not a right or benefit given to some and not to others, and writers are not mostly rich and powerful.

People vary in how much they can handle, how driven they are to write -- and in their objective circumstances. As many people have pointed out, it is difficult and time-consuming to be poor. I feel I could have written more and had more of a career, if I had been more disciplined and energetic. My objective circumstances were not that bad. But having to work did slow my writing down. There was a recent story about a guy in Detroit, who had a job and no car and walked to work -- two hours each way. Do that, and you may not have time to write. Even a ordinary job and access to public transit is tiring. I have written a lot of poetry on buses, but very little fiction.

Most writers I know have a day job or a spouse with a day job. (LeGuin's husband was a tenured professor.) The thing is, even if you are making a living as a writer, it tends to be an erratic living, and it may stop at any time. It helps to have a steady income in the house, and it helps to have health insurance. In addition, someone has put a quarter in me today, the people I know who are making a living are writing 2-3 books a year. The fastest I ever wrote a novel was 18 months. My big novel took me 13 years. Could I have written faster? Yeah, but I would probably have not written the novel I wanted to write.
This is from an online discussion of the money writers make:

The ability to touch people that deeply should count for something. In fact, all of us probably touch some group of people deeply. I'd take more money, if it were offered. But I mostly write to reach out, to communicate, and for self-expression and for the joy one can get from craft.