Writing Despite The Bills

A recent piece on Salon highlighted one of the murky secrets of the writing life: who is paying the bills?

The piece, provocatively titled “‘Sponsored’ by my husband” (and the response “The price I pay to write“) discusses one of the topics a Southerner just isn’t supposed to discuss: finances. The first discusses how hard it was to try to have a regular life while also writing; the author is only able to currently manage hers because she married someone whose salary is “hefty.” The second piece has an infatuation with the HBO show girls but at least is taking a crack at working 9-to-5 while also being a writer.

But the nitty-gritty is one of the cruxes of a writing career: you still need something to eat, somewhere to sleep, and probably (at least in America) health care of some kind. Where ya gonna get that?

In the first article, Ann Bauer points out that several authors recently published talk like they’ve done it all themselves but really benefited either from inherited money or deep familial connections.

I practically swooned with jealousy: undeniably, both would help me a great deal. Particularly the connections—since getting an agent/publisher/people with purse strings to pay attention to you is the first obstacle to publication.

But the “having enough money to live off of” is a huge component, too. I talked about this when Hugh Howey, of Wool fame, first hit the radar. Yes he worked hard, yes he is more workaday than a millionaire, but he also had a wife who was mostly able to support them while he took a low-paying part-time bookselling job to give himself time to write. That is a huge luxury (and, luckily for them, it paid off big time.).

At conferences and online, I see a lot more of the kind of writer I am: fitting writing around everything else. And that kind of juggling is trying, at times. I have a full-time job, a spouse with a job he finds rewarding but which won’t pay the bills alone, a part-time career as a freelance editor, AND I have written three books I’m working on getting published. I’ve said it before: how exactly am I supposed to do those things and actually have a life of any kind? It feels overwhelming.

(Side note: I think a bunch of people who cater to authors are taking advantage, selling “must-have” products that “guarantee” success. They disgust me; I hope the people buying those products are independently wealthy.)

However, I have made my choice in how to get money to live while also being a writer. While, sure, I’d love to win the lottery next month or something, I don’t think I’d ever feel comfortable being “sponsored” by my husband or another patron; we are partners, and it is my responsibility to carry my weight in our relationship, financially, in the household, and otherwise. One of the main reasons I have an editing side business is that I can feel confident using the resulting income to pay for resources in my own publishing dreams (also, it is SUCH a kick to see a book I’ve edited actually go on sale. Some have even won wards!).

For me, the juggling is worth it, even if it’s challenging at times. I need to feel like I’m helping my family forward, even if that means my books don’t churn out as quickly. That’s a choice I’ve made.

What about you? How do you manage your household while writing? Do you wish you could do it differently?

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Filed under Publishing, writing

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