Monday, May 13, 2013

She Works Hard for the Money

Do you have Donna Summers' voice in your head yet? No? Here you go.

You're welcome.

A year ago, I was in a pretty rough spot. Despite having three novels and a short story collection out in a year (with a book and another short story collection coming), sales were non-existent and royalties were abysmal, so when my dog was dangerously ill right after my bunny had surgery, I was broke and freaking out about how I'd pay rent after dropping everything I had at the vet office.

Today (well, last Thursday as you'll be reading this), some of the critters went in for checkups and I got some not great news about my beloved cat. The vet warned she wanted to run more tests but they were costly--together they were going to run about $300.

I let out a breath of relief. "Oh, no prob, I can do that."

'No prob.' From me. Coming out of my mouth.

I've gone from being homeless to living below the poverty level to just barely going over the poverty level to..."no prob" when a couple of sudden tests popped up. The biggest difference from May 2012 is that I spent a year writing for the money. And that shit's paid off.

When I started last year--after drunkenly agreeing to it in a moment of high impressionability--I was filled with shame. I whispered it to close friends. I guarded this secret as I imagined college girls do when they strip to get through med school. Because all writing must be ART, yes? It must have a piece of our soul? It must never, ever be for the dirty cold hard cash we need to survive?


You know who told me to be proud? Our very own Bad Horse. She said there was no shame in making a living from writing.

And today, that's what I'm going to tell you.

It's really nice to work hard on a book you love, that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into, and have it do well. And sometimes it happens.

Many times it doesn't.

So what are you going to do? Are you going to moan that Life Isn't Fair? Are you going to bitch about readers not liking what you write? Or are you going to pick yourself up and write what will make money, giving readers what they want? Because here's the thing: no one owes you a living in writing. You are not owed a certain amount of money just because you wrote a book. Readers do not owe you their time or money. And if they are not buying what you're peddling, you find something else they might want.

And it's not an either/or situation, folks. I still write what I love. I still hope to sell and making a living from what I love one day. But in the meantime? In the meantime, I have no shame. Skillz to pay the billz, as the Gothic Goddess says.

It's okay to write things you don't love if it's paying well. Art doesn't always feed your kids. It doesn't always pay your rent. And let me tell you, if it means the difference between life-saving medication for one of my babies or letting them die? I know what I'm choosing.

I'm not rolling in it. Yet. I'm not about to quit my day job and if it comes to my furbaby needing a big ticket item, like surgery, I'll have to do some strategizing. But I've got a nice supplemental income that's eased the strain from living paycheque to paycheque. And I'm not ashamed of it.

I worked hard for it.

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