Boy, is it the truth! Writers rarely talk about how they make a living. Most of us have day jobs. Many of us, like Ann Bauer in her article, have supportive spouses or partners. Some of us have both.
But many writers have neither – and their success as writers gives them the appearance of making their living from writing. All too often, as Bauer demonstrates, the reality is that their private financial circumstances or connections contribute to their success and should be acknowledged.
Bauer really struck a chord with me. Like her, I’m married to a loving and supportive husband who has a good job. We’re not wealthy, but we’re comfortable enough to live on his salary. When we were married, I worked full time and owned my own home. My mother pointed out that if I wanted to stay home with any future children, we’d be better off learning to live on just one salary and putting the other away. (Good advice!)
I took that advice to heart, and while I have worked part-time in public and school libraries on and off over the past several years, I’ve had plenty of time to stay home with my child, volunteer in schools, and yes, begin writing seriously. (By that, I mean writing with the intent for publication. Not just journaling, not just putting words on paper, but treating writing as my career instead of my library work. Complete with business cards, software, the laptop, workshops, conferences – all the professional accoutrements. One day, I would love an office. In my dreams! I’m lucky I have a desk. 🙂 )
Before reading Bauer’s article, I never knew what to call my situation. Obviously my family was not scraping by on the salary of a part-time librarian! But it always rankled me when well-meaning folks would say that I didn’t work. I worked a LOT. I just didn’t get paid for it.
Sponsorship is the perfect word for it. My beloved husband sponsors me, just like Nike sponsors pro athletes. He believes in me and shows it by supporting our family mostly solo, so I can pursue my writing. One day, I want to do the same for him.
Ann Bauer is right. By being open about our circumstances – financial or otherwise – we do aspiring writers a service. Writing is not easy. It takes hard work. And that work is made much easier when you’re not working full-time. Or two or more part-time jobs. Or caring for young children or elderly parents. Aspiring writers deserve the truth that no matter how hard you work or how talented you are, writing requires support. Mental, emotional, financial.
Connections matter, too. Living in New York has given me opportunities I would not have had before we moved here. I haven’t always been wise enough to take advantage of those opportunities, but I’m going to be wiser – and bolder – this year. (And even if you don’t live in New York, make connections! SCBWI is your friend. Plenty of networking opportunities in person and online.)
That’s not to say that you can’t succeed as a writer without support or connections. You can. But it will be MUCH harder.
I wish I could say I’m one of those folks. But I’m not. As I explained to a friend back when I was working full-time in corporate America, plenty of writers succeeded in writing with a day job (see Wallace Stevens or Jorge Luis Borges).
I wasn’t one of them. I’m more like Harper Lee, who was given a year off to write by a friend. (To Kill a Mockingbird, anyone? And we’re similar in situation alone. I don’t claim her talent!)
Here’s to my husband, for whom and to whom I’m grateful! May you be equally blessed in writing and in life.