Thursday, September 24, 2009

Will write for money. And apparently, other stuff too.

It's been quiet on the blog this week partly because I'm doing class prep (Rutgers continuing ed memoir/creative nonfiction starts in a few days).

But it's also because, when I was talking to someone last weekend about being a writer, and I mentioned this blog, and also an essay published in a literary journal, here's what I heard: "And how much does that pay?"

Let's put aside for the moment the lack of civility and presumptuousness in such a comment: as if anyone (except perhaps my husband) has a right to those details.

Mind you, invariably this kind of remark is made by someone with a far greater and much more secure income than mine, someone with childcare and an established career who hasn't taken 3 personal or sick days in two years, someone who hasn't ever worked in any kind of freelance capacity, someone who hasn't the slightest interest in any kind of artistic expression, someone, in other words, like the person who said it to me last weekend while we were having what I thought was a pleasant comrade-in-arms conversation about how the recession is affecting our ability to not wince and heave each month when making out the checks for – well, everything.

When this sort of thing happens, I spend a week or so having a conversation with myself that goes something like this:

Me (only meaner): No time for non-income-producing work this week. Nose to the grindstone.

Me: But I do have paying work. Teaching. Editing. Writing. There are checks coming in every month, you know.

Meaner me: Not enough, missy. Not enough.

Me: Okay, but maybe just a blog post or two.

Meaner me: Nope. No money to be made there. Get more confirmed writing assignments. Find new editing clients. Propose a new course. Ask for more work from current clients. Sign up more students. Say yes to the person who wants to hire you to edit that unpunctuated handwritten-in-pencil, "nonfiction flash fantasy novel in linked humorous poetical essays."

Me: What are you talking about? There's no such person.

Meaner me: Well, you know what I mean. Chop chop.

Me: Okay, but I am going to proofread my 200-page manuscript for that contest…

Meaner me: Forget it. Paying work only, girl. All day, every day.

Me: Right. I'm on it.

And I am on it. For about three and a half days. Then, like an emotional eater who sneaks cookies when everyone is in bed (yep, that's me too, but that's another story), I'm at the computer at midnight writing a blog post. Or reading entries in a contest I've volunteered to judge. None of which "pays." There is, however, a pay off.

And so, I'm back.


Laraine Herring said...

Rock on, Lisa. The comments don't change once you have published books, as you know. And the money still doesn't pour in. During this time in the semester, I question the whole thing myself. I have 95 students a semester and try to help each of them with their own work to the best of my ability and still find time for my own. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I remember the equally rude question -- "Where have you been published" -- when I first got brave enough to call myself a writer. I hadn't been published at that time, but I invoked full Fiction Writer's Prerogative to lie and said, "The New Yorker." Made 'em go away. :-)

Good luck with the class!

drew said...

You said it! In fact, you said what I say to myself much of the time. Thanks for giving voice to the voice in my head.

What doesn't pay in money, surely pays in other — and just as meaningful — ways.

all the best,

Susan Cross said...

I'm one of the mean mes: No more income from writing my magazine articles (which paid my way for over three years as a contributing writer to several magazines each mont)); going to apply for a job at Borders in the cafe so at least I can be close to books.

Meaner me: Writing my #Fridayflash for twitter. Nope, no income generated there. Oh well. Can't resist this week, I have a story to tell.

Meanest me: That book I've been working on for three years, a memoir of a famous musician has been shelved; not literally because the book is not being published. The widow (formerly a close friend while her husband was alive) has threatened to sue me calling me a ghost writer taking advantage of his name (which nobody would recognize without the cover design of my book relating him to his 20 year stint as bandleader with Ray Charles. How have I wasted so much time?

Well, maybe not the meanest me, but the most hurt. I need to get back to being the mean me and buckle down to paying assignments -- paid with deposits when assigned to ensure the checks will come in the mail (no joke intended).


Michelle O'Neil said...

Joy is a form of payment. Never underestimate it.

2KoP said...

Will you write for grateful readers. If so, thank you. And thank you again.