Dirty secret about writing

Actually, it’s sort of one of many. But let’s focus on this one from the Guardian: You can’t be a writer unless you can afford it. Speaking as someone currently living on grants and credit, I don’t know if that’s true. But what IS true is that I can’t be ONLY a writer unless I win a lottery or find out I am the illegitimate lovechild of Bill Murray and sole heir to his fortune. (Guardian is making you register now to read the articles, for some reason, but you can register easily with Google or Facebook and it’s free after that. What’s another company having your info mean if you get to read articles about how terrible your life is?)

Once, before a debut novelist panel geared specifically to aspiring writers, one of the novelists with whom I was set to speak mentioned to me that they’d hired a private publicist to promote their book. They told me it cost nearly their whole advance but was worth it, they said, because this private publicist got them on a widely watched talkshow. During this panel, this writer mentioned to the crowd at one point that they “wrote and taught exclusively”, and I kept my eyes on my hands folded in my lap. I knew this writer did much of the same teaching I did, gig work, often for between $1,500-$3,000 for a six to eight-week course; nowhere near enough to sustain one’s self in New York. I knew their whole advance was gone, and that, if the publicist did pay off, it would be months before they might accrue returns.

I did not know what this writer, who I thought was single, paid in rent, or all the other ways that they might have been able to cut corners, that I, a mother of two, could not cut, but even then, it felt impossible to me that this writer was sustaining themselves in any legitimate way without some outside help. I thought, maybe, when they said “write” they might be including copywriting or tech, as some others that I know support themselves.

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