Just Another Struggling Writer

The lamentations of yet another person struggling to write a novel.

The Unwealthy Writer

Hello friends and welcome to another financial edition of Just Another Struggling Writer. I’m just another struggling writer. 

Today, I’m going to talk about something perhaps a little on the taboo side: the disparity between writers of means and writers who live with financial insecurity.

Look, I’m not saying anything new. It’s no secret to anyone that money makes the world go round. Of course, technically speaking writers don’t need to have a lot of spare funds laying around to write a helluva good book. They don’t need money to query agents (not anymore anyway, with the internet). They don’t need money to acquire a book deal. But, I don’t think it would be disingenuous to say that having money would make all of that a lot easier.

I’m a poor writer. Most of my life, both as a child and an adult, I have spent in that gray area between the poverty line and middle class, where I don’t qualify for food stamps because of my income to expenses ratio but I still make so little to qualify for some other government assistance. I don’t live comfortably by middle class standards. If a financial emergency occurs and it’s not within a three month period of getting my tax returns, I’m pretty much up shit creek. 

And let me be clear, this isn’t a pity party. It’s certainly not the responsibility of the internet to make sure my bills are paid, and I’m not looking for sympathy. I’m simply stating the reality that I, and many other writers, experience every day. 

Unfortunately, that means that we are left out of a lot of opportunities, not just to grow as writers – like through workshops and writing retreats – but also in areas where building connections is just as important. Writing conferences, for example, are great places to meet people and to explore different ways of thinking about your craft. But a writer living paycheck to paycheck isn’t often able to afford the hundreds of dollars a ticket might cost. To say nothing of the travel expenses for the boutique out of town conventions. 

Are conventions, workshops, and retreats necessary to be a successful writer? No. In fact, I would argue that a lot of building a successful writing career hinges on luck and the stars aligning in ways outside of your own control. But for those of us on the outside looking in, it’s easy to feel like those of means are able to cut in line a little bit. Rubbing elbows with agents at conventions or getting to pick the brain of an already successful author on a retreat is a luxury that many cannot afford.

The disparity is not just limited to traditional publishing, as well. While self-publishing has made establishing a writing career so much more accessible to many writers who would not otherwise have achieved that dream, monied writers have a leg up in that arena as well.  Professional editors, cover designers, layout specialists, and advertisements are costs that add up quickly. Sure, you can push out a book on Amazon without any of those things, but I don’t think anyone would argue that someone who can afford them has a better chance of doing well in the indie market than someone who cannot.

This is all to say nothing of the stifling effect financial stress can have on creativity. I know when I’m in a tight spot money wise, writing takes a back seat to the mental juggling act of balancing my paycheck and my bills. It’s hard to feel motivated to spend your limited time and/or mental energy on writing a book that has absolutely no guarantee of paying off. Not when there are paid opportunities you could be seeking out instead. 

Not to mention the fact that the vast majority of published writers don’t even make enough money off their books to make it their full time career. Writing is a labor of love, one that many, many underprivileged folks simply cannot afford to pursue seriously or with any sort of alacrity.

Of course, I am not suggesting that writing retreats, workshops, and conventions should cease to exist simply because they cannot cater to everyone. Speakers, agents, and those organizing the events deserve to be paid for their time, labor, and expertise. Nor is anyone who participates in these opportunities thumbing their noses at those who cannot. But I think it’s important to recognize that writing professionally is not a totally even playing field. Is it more level than some other industries? Sure, but I doubt it’s possible to remove all financial considerations when undertaking a creative passion, no matter how much we might like to.

Look, I’m trying not to name names here, because as I said, those people organizing writing-related events have every right to charge what they feel they are owed for the work they are doing. There is obviously a market for what they do. But, just out of curiosity I clicked on a registration link for a retreat only to learn that tickets start at $2000.00 and thought to myself, “Well, fuck me, I guess.” Because that is such an extravagant expense on my income that I literally cannot think of a way to justify it, even with careful saving. And that’s just something a lot of us poor (literally poor) writers just have to live with.

But Kerry, I can hear you say, you don’t have to go to those things to be a writer. Plenty of successful authors ignore those sort of events. 

I know that. But it still stings sometimes to be reminded that I wasn’t invited.

Alright, seriously, not looking for pity. I don’t like crowds and meeting people is hard for me anyway, so this is largely a moot point as far as me personally is concerned. It just sort of grinds my gears to see promos phrased like, “Come hang out with us and talk writing, to the cool price of two grand!” Like yeah, I’d love to. Let me just set aside an entire month’s income lol. (I’m not shaming those who can and do pay for these kinds of things. Honestly I’m jealous.)

Anyway, that’s it from me this week. I’m rebounding from a depressive episode and trying to get back on the blogging wagon, which means I have to think of something to talk about tomorrow. I’m taking suggestions. Until then friends, may your writing be plenty and your struggles be few. 

Kerry Share

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About Me

Kerry Share’s love for writing started, as it so often does, as a love of reading at an early age. At age 11 she wrote her first short story, a Harry Potter knockoff of dubious quality, and her love for creative expression was born. Throughout her teen years she continued to foster that passion through derivative work, and at 23 she turned her eye to original fiction.

Now in her thirties, having taken a break from creative endeavors to cope with an ever changing life and landscape, she is determined to make her dream of a writing career reality.

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