So, this article has been doing the rounds on social media, and debate has been… animated, to say the least. It happened to get my back up in a week where I’m neatly dividing my time between refreshing my inbox and limping with difficulty through some short stories. So permit me my tuppence-worth. *braces self*
The whole general funding discussion has been going on for yonks, especially around Kickstarter/Patreon. Chuck Wendig and Natalie Luhrs both made very thorough and excellent analyses of an author who was basically bullied into pulling her crowdfunding for the audacity to ask for a salary for her work. The whole dreadful debate has slithered, class-conscious tentacles and all, into music recently- James Blunt wrote a Strongly Worded Letter to his MP, starting a whole bunch of mudslinging about privilege and opportunity that I’m not sure really helped anyone.
Back to the Salon piece. On the surface, the author is seeking more transparency for the ‘sponsors’ of writers, in this case her husband working full-time to support her. But look carefully at the provocative clickbaity wording of the title and sub: ‘“Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from. The truth is, my husband’s hefty salary makes my life as a writer easy. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help anyone‘. So, I’ve taken from this that, despite my parents telling me money conversations are crass and inappropriate almost everywhere, I should be giving a full background report. Also, if I do have a massive wad of cash stored somewhere I’ve, what, betrayed my potential readership?
My, she’s got it all worked out too. These authors talking about hard work, when we know full well they’re diving onto pools of money like literary Scrooge McDucks! Scandalous! It’s the god-awful passive-aggressive privilege narrative wheeled out in a particularly spiteful way. But it’s a catch-22. Seen to have too much money? You’re not a starving writer; you’re probably only doing this as a hobby. Actually a starving writer? Well, why aren’t you getting a real job instead of wasting time writing? See the problem? And it really shouldn’t fall to the partners and children of writers to come to their defence. They do enough bloody hard work helping in the first place, and if it was a problem that their support was costing them money I think I’d have been booted out our house by now.
There’s a lot of dross out there, but on the whole I’m glad crowdfunding like Kickstarter exists as another option. And for the lucky few, it’s meant some pretty major success. Would I consider using one if I wasn’t in the happy situation of freelancing that keeps me ticking over and a husband in full-time work? Perhaps. It’s a perfectly valid way of doing things. There are many valid ways to survive as a writer. But I want to pay my own way as much as is humanly possible, because I’m stubborn and proud like that. I don’t have a salary for writing. I get to invoice my ‘proper’ job so I can pay for food and bills and other such frills.
Here’s the thing. Writers and other creatives are under a constant barrage of despair these days. Our spirits are tiny shrivelled husks, more miniscule than a Lib Dem promise. You get all sorts of nonsense, berating us for not writing the ‘right’ thing, for not having a ‘real job’, for not really having any purpose. The last thing we need is demanding a full balance sheet before you buy a book- which, I’m sorry to say, I saw a lot in responses to the Salon piece from friends I used to hold in high regard. Yes, they cry, we must absolutely hold writers to account! We need transparency! Well, alright. Just for you, here’s what I’ve spent my wages on in the past few months when my husband doesn’t bring in shipments of cheap wine:
– Home maintenance. I paid for nice men to come and prod electrical and gas appliances. Incidentally, they were a lot less harsh about my career choice.
– Christmas. Some of it came from *gasp* a charity shop. WHOLE POUNDS WERE SPENT.
– Buses in and out of networking events. Internet is nice; meeting people who don’t screech at you like the internet does is better.
– Salsa evening classes for a mere £30, to get me out the house, turn into Jake from Strictly, dance with attractive men and generally not think about the crushing amount of expectation others seem to have about my sponging off my husband when I’m spending my own money to shimmy around in a primary school gym.
There we go. Maybe the next step is paying less for a book whose author is a bit more well-off than you’d like? Perhaps next time I’m in the shop you own, I’ll take a few extra groceries for free because you obviously look like you don’t need the money. Logic, innit? Here, have a pitchfork while you’re at it.
Tatum Flynn made a good point the other day. We’ve gone from the ‘starving writer in a garret’ to ‘you’ve written a book? Wow, you must have loads of money!’ with absolutely no shades in between. I don’t think the Salon writer got the memo that there are few Rowlings around, and you don’t get sacks of cash for books. It’s nice she worked up through hardship, but I didn’t get that memo about producing my ‘I too was working-class and all we ate was cold gravel’ card. Because that doesn’t matter in this logic. Because I’m lucky enough to be in a better position, two university degrees on. Really, is it anyone’s business at all? I’d argue it isn’t, and if you need a background check on your favourite up-and-coming writer… well, you could always ask Kathleen Hale for tips?