Tuesday, May 5, 2015


"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.

How can I be so sure? Because I used to be poor, overworked and overwhelmed. And I produced zero books during that time. Throughout my 20s, I was married to an addict who tried valiantly (but failed, over and over) to stay straight. We had three children, one with autism, and lived in poverty for a long, wretched time. In my 30s I divorced the man because it was the only way out of constant crisis. For the next 10 years, I worked two jobs and raised my three kids alone, without child support or the involvement of their dad.

I published my first novel at 39, but only after a teaching stint where I met some influential writers and three months living with my parents while I completed the first draft. After turning in that manuscript, I landed a pretty cushy magazine editor’s job. A year later, I met my second husband. For the first time I had a true partner, someone I could rely on who was there in every way for me and our kids. Life got easier. I produced a nonfiction book, a second novel and about 30 essays within a relatively short time."

Being someone who largely doesn't write anymore, but who wants to write, and who finds his designated writing time often compromised or put at a low priority, whose projects begin with momentum and  are sidetracked by the distractions of working full-time and raising kids. whose best ideas get lost in the haze of email or responsibilities, who took his first job at a newspaper before that industry crashed and still made less hourly than my previous job at Blockbuster Video, who comes from an upbringing of some privilege but now finds himself well within middle class still struggling beyond each week's paycheck, I identify with this piece. 

The stigma of admitting how much you make or how it is you are able to do what the market identifies as having not monetizable value does seem to be the last class burial.  I often wonder about it though.  To whom is it impolite to share salary information?  Those who may be reminded of the ways in which they are disenfranchised or economically devalued?  Or those whose worth has already been confirmed in the market, afraid of being slightly uncomfortable about their complicity?

I've even thought about pitching a piece like this on musicians, on what they do to make ends meet, where they find the time to work on tunes, et. al.- since it's clear no one makes much money on underground music alone anymore.  But I'm someone who largely doesn't write anymore, who wants to write, but who finds my writing time often compromised...

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