Earlier this week, Salon published an essay by writer Ann Bauer about, as she says, “the masquerade” that some writers put on — that is, the fact that writing doesn’t pay a lot of money and it’s easier to do if you happen to have access to a lot of it. Most writers — and friends and families of writers — know how hard it is to sustain yourself solely on a writing career. Those that manage to do so are a small and lucky bunch. The rest of us keep working day jobs or picking up as many freelance assignments as we can, or putting together piecemeal extra careers teaching a couple of classes here and a writing retreat there. And then there are the others whose careers are supported by the “sponsorship” of others — their spouses or significant others who happen to earn enough money to allow for the uncertainties of the life (and paycheck) of a writing career, or who may have some family money to fall back on.
None of the assertions Bauer makes in “‘Sponsored’ by my Husband” are either surprising or revolutionary, unless you are somehow unaware that creative careers are not generally high on the economic stability ladder. She makes her unsurprising points and chastises other authors who pretend that all you need for success is “dedication,” especially those writers whose “dedication” just happens to be bolstered by a family fortune, or a family fortune and deep connections in the insular publishing world (as two unnamed examples from the essay).
Links to the Salon piece have shown up in every writing group I’m associated with over the last couple of days, sometimes with surprising responses — who knew that saying money can make some things easier was a controversial position? Here, the P-Mag crew weighs in:
Sally: I think that’s a grad student thing, too. I know at least two women who can handle the poverty of grad school better because their spouses have good jobs. I personally get some minor help from my mom. I think there are a lot of people who can do things they normally wouldn’t be allowed to do for reasons like this. Money gives you privileges.
Slay Belle: Well, my husband was able to get his PhD because I worked a full-time job for 9 years, which got me a husband with a PhD, laid off, and moved to another country. So. Yeah.
During my interview process the panel asked why I didn’t have a master’s degree, which was awkward because the answer is (and I told them this) because I worked to put Beau through his program, and we couldn’t afford for us both to be in school. They obviously didn’t understand that line of reasoning (and the lack of master’s is part of the reason I’m a contract employee instead of a straight employee with benefits).
Stephens: This oddly makes me feel better about my life, but also kind of pissed.
April: This is why I hate those articles that say you have to just dive right in and quit your day job if you want to seriously pursue your passion. Who does that? People with wealthy and generous parents or no kids or a spouse who makes enough to cover the bills, I guess.
April: Also, I’ve been ranting about stuff like this today. Yes, we write for free here and other places, but there’s a difference in doing something as a “serious hobby” and having some control over it versus taking a full-time job that is only going to pay you $500 a month for three months with vague promises of the potential for more later. http://jobs.problogger.net/view/9001
Selena: And the difference is, here NOBODY gets paid. Those places all have funding, and the owners/leadership are getting paid. Nobody’s making anyone else rich here. We’re all brokeass freebies together.
Sally: Slay Belle: that sounds about right…
Selena: And I live better b/c I have a partner with a good job. I acknowledge and appreciate it. At the same time, I make 1/4 the money for working 3x the hours he does.
April: But the wage gap doesn’t exist!!!!11!!1!! I swear I wanted to punch some fool on Twitter last night who kept saying if women are really getting paid less than why aren’t we taking those companies to court.
Selena: BECAUSE WE NEED JOBS?
Selena: And if you work in a small field and get branded a “troublemaker” your career will be over?
April: And there’s more to it than just lower pay for the same position. Like women not even being given access to those higher paying positions.
Hillary: And god help us if we take time off to stay home with the kid(s). I wound up staying home partly because my job screwed me over and partly because day care didn’t exist for kids under 6 months in my neighborhood, and a nanny cost more than I made. Six years later I can barely get interviews at part-time jobs that pay half my old hourly rate (and even when I do, they don’t hire me).
April: After my son was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 8, I got fired for “excessive absences.” The limit for the year was 8 and he spent 4 days in the hospital. You think his dad lost HIS job? Hell no.
Juniper: Rage or laughter, I’m not sure which this will induce. There was an MP recently who defended his voting against legislation to have transparency on the difference in wages between genders because women aren’t a minority.
Also: interesting article. First thought was that one response to this would be “But what about Rowling!!?!?” because she wrote on a welfare pittance. Except that she’s an incredible rarity.
Liza: BUT THE PATRIARCHY IS JUST A MYTH AMIRITE
Slay Belle: Why didn’t that dude just go ask Lily Ledbetter how taking her employers to court worked out for her?
Slay Belle: “Because she wrote on welfare pittance” — which Rowling has talked about a lot, because that welfare pittance kept her from starving to death, which allowed her to write her novels, which turned her into a billionaire, and then she turned around, made sure to pay all her taxes on her massive fortune, and made gigantic investments in charitable works. Seems to be like a really good argument for a social safety net.
Linotte: We discussed this in our romance writers group. Some people didn’t like what the writer had to say. The piece left a bad taste in my mouth.
Slay Belle: Can you be more specific?
Linotte: Not the writer herself, but the other authors whom she discussed (but did not name). It’s good that she is bringing up that this needs to be discussed, because she is conscious of her own privilege.
April: Who was the second one, the 30-something woman with the YA novel and a lot of connections? I think I know who but I can’t recall her name. Thin blonde lady, some SNL writer stuck up for her, dad or father-in-law or somebody is a big shot with the NY Times or something like that… or am I way off?
Linotte: Kathleen Hale.
April: YES! Thank you.
Linotte: Do not get me started on Katheen Hale. She is, to say the least, not a very nice person.
April: Yeah I remember now why she stood out in my mind. She was the one who stalked the blogger who gave her book a bad review.
4 replies on “P-Mag Round-table: On Being Sponsored by Your Husband”
I remember reading this piece earlier this week and thinking, “Yes, I wish someone had told me this.” I’m 24 and absolutely struggling right now, and I would be out on the street if I wasn’t living at home. Because I do not make enough. I make so little that I don’t have to pay taxes because the government feels bad for me. (Not quite, but you know…) It’s just so difficult because the getting published part isn’t hard. It’s the getting paid. Because people are more than happy to accept the essays you slave over and let the clicks roll in, but paying you on time? Or paying you at all? It’s such a struggle. I’ve been writing freelance full-time for about a year now since I got laid off my last job and I hate it. This is exactly the situation I never wanted to be in, and I’d much rather have a sucky job I hate that pays well that allows me to write on the side. And while my ideal position would be writing somewhere full-time, it’s unlikely to happen and I have to get realistic about supporting myself.
Having someone else in your life with a regular income can support a lot of less stable careers. I sold real estate before my second divorce in 2005. I loved everything about it but I also had two teenagers and needed a job with a salary and health insurance so, back to the office I went.
I’m glad at least somebody is saying it out loud. I have to work, and I spend far too much time wallowing in existential despair as I grow older that I do a job I don’t love and can’t devote as much time to my writing as I wish to. I feel like I’ll never break out.
More time to write and promote=more money coming in=more time to write and promote, etc. I wish more authors came right out and said this stuff. Maybe the rest of us wouldn’t feel like such failures.
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I can’t ♥ your comment any more, but I really do.