Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What's My Line?

Wouldn't it be lovely, the subtext of your cable TV/Internet Service Provider seems to be asking, if you could have your own commercial free station where you have 24/7 access to all your favorite songs.  They seemed to mean music in general, which is to say long tracks of jazz or chamber music or ballets or blues or symphonic music, and you responded to their questions as though that were the case.  Of course "they" wanted to know which you'd like more, a free station the costs of which were amortized by your monthly TV/ISP tab, or if you'd consent to shelling out a small added fee to be tacked on to your monthly bill.

You could, of course, download all your CDs , then transfer them to your iPod, giving you the option of music on your computer, played through two Bose speakers that came your way a birthday or so ago, or listening in your car or through your iPod.

In all cases, the matter at hand is one much of a piece with your on-going research about writers:  Based on information from your friends who are writers and nothing else, writers who do other things to supplement their writing income (such as paint pictures or teach), and writers who would like to add income from writing to their income stream and who now secure at least ninety percent of their income from other things (such as painting houses, running a cloth remnants shop, serve as a stringer for various newspaper services), and from blogs of writers you follow, it seems to you that the overwhelming number of writers who are devoted to their calling--devoted to the point of writing at least six times a week--are in substantial agreement that they would like to earn their entire income stream from writing.  You have conducted this survey over a long enough period of time and have branched out to include individuals you know only through Internet contact to believe the universal desire to write full-time has a significant priority on the personal goals of most writers.

Even in today's sclerotic market, writing full-time and producing enough for living expenses is possible, but you wonder how some of those who want to do nothing but write would respond given an early success in long form that would then allow the luxury of working from proposals which, when accepted, would produce a modest advance, broken into increments, each successive increment contingent--lovely word, that--on a steady and regular production of pages.

Of all your clients who come to you through literary agents or recommendations from other writers, only two deliver pages when they promise.  All others, even after having secured your commitment to work with them on a project, are invariably late getting material to you (and in direct proportion to their lateness pressure you for response and approval).  

It is a jungle out there, but not because of the moods and humors of the jungle, rather because of the human condition.

Yes, you would enjoy and prefer a decided shift in your income stream to the point where your teaching and editing would be done for free or on an at-cost basis, allowing you the added luxury of taking on only those you wished to take on, but even that is mixing apples and oranges.  Everyone you know who is able to live from his or her writing does not write to make a living but writes because he or she has no choice in the matter.

For your part, taking a vacation means writing something other than what you've been working on for a time.  A vacation of, say, swimming or hiking, or attending one of the music festivals at Santa Fe, or handing out at the awful restaurant at Keams Canyon on the Second Mesa all need to have the can tied to the tail of being able to take a clutch of legal pads or a laptop along.

It isn't doing it to make a living, it is doing it because "it" is the source of the living, which has a mind and heart of its own and unfolds like the sheets being shaken over the balcony by the mother with her hands full of events and her mind full of dreams. 

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