I saw a link to this article via Court Merrigan (read his work yo) about the cost of that writers small literary ambitions. Great title by the way.
One of the ever present issues with writing for me since the first painfully typed on high quality paper, stuffed in a high quality envelope and sent off first class submission I made at 16 until right this instant, the cost of being a non famous (or moneymaking) writer has been on the forefront of my thoughts.
In the past let’s say year or so I’ve been getting a lot of mail both snail and e telling me about all the exciting opportunities for things I am now eligible for since the world has found out I do this thing.
Conferences, reference books, classes, websites, writing organizations, kickstarters, indiegogo projects. You name it someone tells me if I am serious about my career as a writer I need to buy their class, attend the conference, go to the retreat etc.
Okay let’s not blow smoke, a lot of those are just for someone to make money.I ‘m not mad about that.
But the thing is that is often skipped in conversations about pay to write vs being paid to write are those of us who work on a tight budget.
So far this year I have earned 80$ with my writing.
That paid for my Duotrope subscription for the year and a new pair of shoes.
When it comes to budgeting out the seemingly small sums for contests, reading fees etc I rarely see people talk about the cumulative costs to people who have dayjobs that are not flexible or jobs where being a free spirit artist who wants to jet off to someplace for a reading is really a thing.
I talked about this before but when I think about the 15$ submission/reading fees or even the 5$ ones a number of things must be considered beyond the pitch that if you only did any of the following, people would take you so much more seriously. Here is a little list of some of the things I have been told to do in order to be serious about writing.
- Subscribe to every magazine you submit to.
- Subscribe to magazines that are at the forefront of the field.
- Join AWP or AWP type organizations.
- Go to conferences to network.
- Go to literary events I am invited to, to network.
- Read my work when I am invited.
- Submit to X zines reading fees or my feelings about them be damned.
- Buy Literary swag.
Now when I’ve been told these things (as recently as Feb.) or given the eleventy million reasons why it is so valuable to take that class, had other authors/artists ask me on a personal level why I don’t support their art blabla.
It can all be very very exhausting.
I wonder if the people who tell me these things, especially if they know me and my circumstances personally ever feel like they are contributing to a bad thing?
Outside of my own frustrations and hurt feelings there is the idea that one must do all this education and pay the price to have any success.
I know that saying you took X class from X hot author is pretty fucking awesome.
I also know that not taking that class probably won’t kill your career.
If we perpetuate the idea that one must be able to support all the classes, subscriptions, member dues, travel etc monetarily in order to be a writer who is taken seriously, are we saying that if someone doesn’t have those resources that they are not to be taken seriously?
During the whole duotrope kerfluffle I saw a lot of ugly classist things. A lot of that (uniquely?) America Boot Strapping attitude that if all us poor people would just go without our coffee, or internet, or telephone or whatever than we could have whatever we want. The big problem with that is assuming that creature comforts are only to be earned. If the idea is that if a poor person can have a smart phone, they must not really be poor right?
If a poor person buys a cup of coffee at Starbucks a few times a week but can’t afford to shell out 50 clams at once, well they just aren’t trying right?
Goddamn poor people, if only they’d take those days off and save up that money everything would be great right?
I personally find it awfully telling when someone who is a has (for lack of a better word) telling me that I am not serious or good or even that I am probably morally questionable because there are certain creature comforts I don’t want to jeopardize with large (in my world over 25$) purchases.
Think about that.
Look at someone you don’t really know and tell them that if they’d just keep wearing those shitty shoes that hurt their feet, they too could have all the worldly things you do.
I would like to be using hyperbole but unfortunately I’ve experienced this a lot and it infuriates me.
I don’t like the idea that if someone like me for instance doesn’t want to shell out upwards f 500 bucks to go to a convention or class, that I (and folks like me) am less than.
I don’t think that’s right.
Also when something that was free that someone like me depends on becomes pay, yes we get angry. Not because we’re all lazy want a free ride freeloaders but, any unexpected bill when you are poor can fuck things up for months.
When you run on a tight budget, random expenses that if you remember for me it was the should I or shouldn’t I pay for duotrope thing, are stressful.
My personal process goes like this.
HOLY SHIT THIS THING IS AWESOME…
For Duotrope it has made an enormous change in how I work and how I get published and how I get rejected. Using Duotrope has upped the quality of my submissions as well as the quality of magazines I submit to. I depend on it.
Now when it came to spending the 50 dollars my situation in the finances department wasn’t so bad we weren’t eating good food but was tight enough that spending that 50 dollars worried the fuck out of me. I got very stressed out. Even more stressed out when I paid.
Between then and now there have been a few situations where that fifty bucks would have made a difference. One month it would have kept my partners cell phone bill paid on time. Or gotten him medication. It might have gotten me to and from work when I lost my bus pass.
The big thing here is that laying out dollars is not just laying out dollars.
Whether it’s for member dues, reading fees, whatever it (more so for poor folks) a deeply intersectional, stressful, often terrible issue.
I will say to those who don’t sweat the money. Please think about it before you open your mouth on the issue and before you judge someone who says, I’m out that’s too expensive.
Think about time off from jobs that don’t provide paid vacation, think about is this person the bread winner for their household? Think about, am I being a hurtful back of dicks when I flippantly tell this person that if only they would suffer or decrease their quality of life, they’d be good or eligible to be taken seriously.
Shit I talked way too much about this.
But, it’s really a central theme in my whole life from my writing, how I work, to my clothes to whether or not I eat well.
So I guess the point is let’s not be dicks to each other when it isn’t necessary.
I will return later this week with some thoughts about the erotic chapbook I’m working on, how nervous I am about making my duotrope usage okay in my mind even though it’s paid for.
And I’ll probably review the HardCore Hard Boiled anthology I’m about done reading. Spoiler alert it’s really fucking good.