Wednesday, 14 April 2010
What else do you do? - Anne Rooney
Katherine's post yesterday on why writers seek publication raised the possibility of publishing in order to be paid. No-one followed that one up in the comments. Profit is an unreliable motive in this job.
Philip Pullman began a talk at Cambridge Wordfest last weekend with reasons writers write, and the first was 'to put food on the table'. He reminded the audience that writing is a job and we should be paid for it. I wasn't there, so I can't tell you the audience's reaction, but I agree wholeheartedly. This is my job, I do it all week, I'm not too bad at it, and I expect to be paid a decent rate for it. But that's not really how the world works.
We all know most writers earn very little. We all know there are plenty of others willing to step into our shoes if we complain too much (though this is a bit of a red herring waved around to keep us in line). So many - probably most - writers do something else besides writing to put food on the table. We might visit schools, teach in universities or on adult education courses or residential writing courses; we might have a part-time 'real' job (ie one with a formal employer who deducts tax and NI) such teaching in a school or working in a library.
I write such a wide variety of things I can usually earn enough just from writing. I sometimes do other things - the odd talk or workshop, a bit of university teaching - and I've been a Royal Literary Fund Fellow (and will be again in September) helping students and university staff with their writing. These are all writing-related at least. The only completely different thing I ever do is building websites. I've worked in the high-tech industry and on its fringes since the early 1980s, and it's useful to have this to fall back on when the writing is on the wall rather than the page.
What do other writers do to keep the wolf a fair distance from the door? Please list all your extra activities in the comments. Are you an actor? A farmer (yes, K, looking at you)? A police officer? A civil servant, like Chaucer? Work in a library, like Larkin, or a bank, like Eliot?
And if you feel like having a rant about how we shouldn't need to have anything to fall back on, please do!
Anne Rooney blogs as Stroppy Author and is, well, a stroppy author.