Amidst the regular stream of news bemoaning the decline in income for writers and other creative people came an interesting round-up from Michael Kozlowski of soundbites from media interviews by female authors. Also see a Salon article from a year ago.
The common denominator among the women? All professed to have husbands who financially supported them while they pursued their writing careers.
Full disclaimer from me, right off the bat: there are three people in the world who I know for sure read every article I produce for TeleRead. One of them is my editor, David Rothman. The second is a co-worker of my husband who is grateful to me for all of my help with her Kobo. And the third, of course, is my Beloved. But here is the clincher with him: it’s a no-brainer for him to support my little side interests given that I have a real, actual job.
Here is the thing. I think many of these authors might actually be more successful if they stopped treating the writing as art and started treating it more like actual work. If my writing income ever started to approach the same level as the income I now earn from my day job, then the Beloved would certainly be amenable to a conversation about my career path and what the options for it might be. But in the meantime, we still need to pay the rent, and eat food, and pay for cell phones and so on. It simply isn’t feasible to live on my handful of Kindle sales a week, and the both of us are smart enough not to pretend it is.
We have been on a Dragon’s Den kick on Netflix lately; this show is the Canadian version of the popular ‘Shark Tank’ series, wherein a panel of wealthy investors weighs in on the businesses people bring before them and decide whether or not to invest their own money in helping these businesses grow. Entrepreneur Kevin O’Leary, who is on the American show as well, is notoriously tough on low earners. “How am I going to get my money back, as an investor?” He’ll ask them. “What you have is a hobby, not a business!” To one hapless wanna-be in a recent episode, he declared thusly: “You are a not a businessman. You are a want-trepeneur.”
And that about sums up my view on the ladies whose patrons of the arts are their respective husbands. My Beloved appreciates many of the non-financial contributions I make to the family. I do most of the cleaning. I cook most of the food. I give a mean arm rub. But I also eat the food. I use the electricity. I spend money we earned together on bus tokens and medication and other necessities of life. It’s fair for me to pay my share of that, and being a woman doesn’t excuse that obligation. And, as Mr. O’Leary so succinctly put it: If it’s not paying your bills, then it’s a hobby, not a business.
Might I continue to plug away on my “hobby” and grow it into something more? Yes. I might. I might reach a point where I do earn enough that it really could be a business to write, to publish, to channel my passion for books into an actual book-writing career. But in the meantime, I am not giving up my day job.