Not new and not a big deal. But something we have to keep thinking about, keep working around or with, keep battling against.
Most writers do not live by writing alone. Those who do are either exceptionally lucky or Anne Rooney, who actually does do some teaching and editing but who mainly works damn hard to write a crazy number of books, whether or not each one is precisely where her heart is, because she knows we can't always follow our hearts if we have to earn a living. A writer's gotta do what a writer's gotta do. Like anyone, really.
So, diversification becomes a necessity. I'm very happy with diversification. I have a low boredom threshhold anyway, so flitting between fiction and non, teenage brains and teenage stress and teenage books, public-speaking and writing consultancy and writing bitty things for bitty places and all the things that occupy my day is a pleasure. But I really need to focus on things that make money, and not all those do. And most of them don't do much.
So, recently (yesterday, as I write this) I diversified further and opened a shop - not really thinking it would make me much money but hoping that it might make a bit and help sell my books. And be fun. Not a shop with a tinkly bell and clanky metal shutters that I could pull down at 5.30pm, but an online one with cool buttons such as Add to Cart and View Basket. Currently, it just has books and bags in it, but gosh how diversificatorily do I have plans! Anne Rooney will even approve of my plans, I'm pretty sure. Today I've been sourcing bags and tea-towels and biothings and designing content and contacting suppliers and dreaming big and bold and bright.
I almost forgot to write. Well, OK, I did forget to write.
And then, also today, I got the news that 110 schools have ordered class sets (I can't even do the maths) of The Highwayman's Footsteps and I remembered that I'm a writer and must not diversify so much that I forget that.
Because that's the problem. Diversification is dilution. And distraction. It's do or die but it's also do too much and die.
I'm excited about my shop but perhaps the next product I should design is a sign to go above my desk saying,
Remember I'm a writer
How do you diversify? What would you do and what would you not do? How do you make a living as a writer or support your writing with something else?
I want aspiring authors to understand that the vast majority of us don't earn a living specifically from writing. I think this honesty is important. It's reality and life and what we work with. Every time an aspiring author tells me they want a publishing contract so that they can give up their job, or afford a better house, a little bit of my heart sinks. And then I remember that I enjoy what I do, and my heart flies again.
Maybe I could write a book about a shop. A shop where you buy dreams that don't last long. Because you wake up and smell the coffee and drink it and get working and then find that working is better than dreaming anyway.
Meanwhile, do keep an eye on my shop, where I will soon be offering a perfect gift for the writer in your life...