Saturday, February 11, 2006

The personal economics of writing

The posts have been sparse this week. I’m not real happy about this development, but I’ve been pulled in multiple directions and the one thing I could let go of, without dropping all the other balls I have in the air, has been the blog.

I’m in a difficult patch. With the Christmas book shipping flurry past, things have come to a clanging halt. I’ve reached an impasse, with both RiverVision Press, as well as my finances. Sadly, I’m not one of those lucky souls that can piece together a living solely on the basis of their writing. I’m not sure many in Maine can, and do. There are enormously talented writers like Stephen King, who is adored by the masses, as well as others, like Tess Gerritsen, who regularly make the best-seller lists. Obviously, their talent and ability to write fiction that is coveted by millions, allows them to live comfortably as full-time writers. I’m somewhat envious of that, but I don’t begrudge them their place at the front of Maine's writing roll call. While they are gifted and the market has rewarded them richly for their skills, I also recognize that being dependent solely on writing for their livelihood, probably brings with it own anxiety and stress, as well .

Then, there are folks like me, who write, but choose arcane subject matter and the history of small town Maine to prattle on about. While I’m pleased that I’m halfway through my small press run of 2,000 books, selling books in small numbers is not a money-making proposition. By the time the printing, shipping and small amount of marketing of a book is done, there isn’t much left over, if anything at all.

The winter doldrums of early February, and a review of my bank account, made me realize that I need to ramp up the money-making apparatus a notch. Putting my writing and some of my anticipated projects on the back burner, I’ve cobble together some of my skills—mostly marketing and sales, coupled with my writing and editorial experience—and have been involved in a special project for a local newspaper. With my other part-time marketing gig, I’m now spending much of my waking hours given solely to the task of making money. Obviously, most other people are forced to do the same, so who the hell am I to think I’m any different. For the time being, RiverVision Press has been relegated to my evenings, weekends and any other time I can focus on my various projects I hope to launch via Maine's unique (and underfunded) press.
In some ways, this is probably good. I think it was former Black Flag front man, Chuck Dukowski, who said that he’d rather work a day job the rest of his life, than be dependent on his music to make a living. I think I recall Ian Mackaye, of Fugazi, saying something similar, intimating that the act of commerce compromises art, for art’s sake. I don’t know if I can agree wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to publish books full-time, if I knew I could live a couple of steps removed from homelessness. I'm also not comfortable expecting my wife to graciously shoulder so much of the financial burden.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this—I’m financially strapped and have taken a course of action to alleviate some of the problems associated with that predicament. I’m not looking for sympathy; I’m merely recognizing that I just don’t seem to have the talent or connections to rely on my writing to make enough money to keep a roof over my head. This isn’t an admission of failure, but more, recognition of the reality of my situation. Like any proactive person, I’ve taken steps to right the ship.

Hopefully, I still have time and energy, as well as something to say that’s worth blogging about.


Richard S. said...

Hi, Jim. case you don't know this already - or can't recall - those thoughts from Mackaye and Dukowski appeared in an interview with Mackaye in Clamor Magazine. I related very well to what they were saying too, because of my own history as a "writer." So, I mentioned it here:

Anonymous said...

Oh, too bad. The "writer" has to get a job. Welcome to the real world!

timothyjlambert said...

Something tells me "anonymous" couldn't get published.

weasel said...

The trick is to carve out that space in the day to scratch the itch while recognizing the very real need to heat and eat...

Keep your chin up; you already have one book published and a stack of clips and its still fun to sit down and type, right?

And anonymous; if you had actually read the above piece you might have noticed Jim has had a job (and if you had read this blog for any length of time you would have read that Jim loves to grumble about said job and the clueless whippersnappers he has to associate with there...). Do you use the "anonymous" tag because you are sore that Ed Anger has the grumpy Archie Bunker-like jerk market cornered?

Or maybe anonymous is "Evil Jim" coming through our hosts subconcious? Evil Jim, stop being so hard of "Godd Jim". Jeez.

Jim said...

I use this blog to accomplish several things; one such application is as a platform to work out ideas and attempt to put them in a semi-cogent format that others might consider worth reading.

Richard, thanks for the link to MacKaye (one of my fave musical artists--I still enjoy listening to Fugazi, who never sound dated to me).

I'm not sure what the deal is with "anonymous". You basically know my thoughts on those postings anyways, if, as Weasel writes, " had read this blog for any length of time."

I certainly do my share of "grumbling" here at Words Matter, which has become a place of comfort for me, where I feel I'm among friends and dare to let my hair down from time to time.

I'm as committed to writing as ever and still feel I have several books in me, I just may have to scale back my timetable a tad.

I still remain focused on getting out the anthology and then see what happens next.