Shift?

So I want to quit my job and write for a living. And I want to do creative writing. Poetry, novels, short stories, that kind of thing. But I still have a mortgage (and soon to add another one), car payment, student loan payment (they last longer when you don’t start paying them until age 35) and various other living expenses and bills to deal with.

How do I reconcile these two truths? On the one hand, I want to focus on my writing as a profession. On the other hand, I’m very good at my job and am paid well to do it, which allows me to feed myself and support my family.

In the past, the path to wealth (or subsistence-level salary) for the creative writer has been something like this – toil in obscurity while collecting rejection slips for years until finally someone understands the true level of your genius and offers you more money than you’ve ever dreamed of to publish your first book. Alternately, teach English at a college and publish collections of poetry on the side. I’m having real trouble finding poets without other jobs, and most folks that self-identify as poets seem to be English professors.

But the world should be different today. With the advent of the internet and the ability to connect directly to readers and fans, people are trying to branch out from the normal path. Amanda Fucking Palmer has had some success with doing oddball fundraisers and outright asking for cash online to support her work, but I’m pretty sure there are still months where cash is tight for her. Kevin Kelly wrote a fascinating piece describing the phenomenon of True Fans, and the fact that most artists only need 1,000 of them to get by, and get by pretty well.

So here’s my request to you, my readers, and theoretically my fans. Email someone that you think would like my writing and give them a link to this site. I don’t want you to spam all your friends with links to me, but I’d like to see a little traffic bump, and maybe some of those friends really will like what I do. I’d prefer that you email someone who’s never heard of me, but we all know someone who likes poetry, because we’ve all got that one gay friend, right? So do me this favor, and at the end of next week, whoever has the most referrals to my site will get a signed and matted copy of the poem of their choice mailed to their house, suitable for framing.

Or tell me that’s a stupid idea and that you’d rather see me try to improve my marketing like this – then describe it. I’m a shameless whore, so I’ll try anything to move one step closer to artistic independence.

For the record – I like my job, and as long as I have to have one, this is the one I’d rather have. But I don’t know many people who wouldn’t rather be self-employed.

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2 thoughts on “Shift?

  1. I worked for years in the insurance industry before being able to stay at home. I don’t currently have any income. Trying to freelance teach etc only got me about $500 in 2009 and that’s before expenses. Poetry just doesn’t pay unless you somehow become Billy Collins. If, however, you can come up with a good market for a non-fiction book then you might be able to self-sustain. I’m lucky enough to be home while my husband works 2 jobs. His decision but not always the easiest one 🙂

    I’ll see if I can give you a shout out on Monday on my blog!

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