Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Being an Author

When my first book was published, I thought, "Finally! I'm an author." The novelty wore off after about a month, when it dawned on me that I couldn't live off my words and that I'd have to find another way to make my riches. When you put every ounce of blood into a piece of work and realize that it cannot sustain you the way you sustained it-- that is when the harsh reality sets in. The reality that in this day and age, there are thousands upon thousands of writers and poets, millions of books and yours is just a drop in a very big ocean.

So how do you live? How do you work towards this passion of being a writer without giving in to the pressures of modern day life? I was asked quite recently how I intend to make a living for myself. Perhaps I'm completely insane, but I thought, "Spoken Word/Freelance Writing". Really? Really. I'm going to buy a house and take vacations to the Far East with the money I make from performing and writing. Or not. Or I'll just be a middle aged lady who still lives at home and apparently wrote a book once upon a time.

People say, "Get a normal job! Work for a company!" Yes, let me work for a company that has no social conscience and then write about revolution and saving our planet from the destructive forces of capitalism. You see, the problem with making a living is that it's very hard to make a living without killing someone else's livelihood (karma, look it up).

So I'm stuck, I'm stuck in a position where if I don't have a gig that pays substantially every week, there is no way in hell that I'll have a career. And because I'm so stubborn in my opposition to working for the 'man', I'm going to have to muster enough courage and strength and business knack to work for myself. But as most of us know, writers are a self-deprecating lot.

We often take gigs that don't pay, undercharge or simply let opportunities pass us by, because sometimes it's too much. It's too much to have opportunities that require time and effort away from writing and creating-- opportunities that don't lead to full time writing positions or a paycheque every week/month. When it becomes so overwhelming, where do we turn?

"Become a brand!" I'm told. A brand that recites spoken word, writes english ghazals, pens half finished novels, edits original creative essays. How do you brand someone who has more than one creative personality? Do we choose from an array of who we could be and choose to be just one? But how can we deny ourselves of our full potential? And yet, whenever I post my spoken word pieces, links to events, book promotional materials on facebook, I can't help but wonder if people are confused. "Is she a performer or an author?" "What does she actually do?" Maybe the problem is that I do too much, and it's still not enough.

Perhaps John Steinbeck was right, "The profession of book writing makes horse racing seem like a solid, stable business."

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