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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A WRITER'S BUSY LIFE

"How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every operning flower!"
Isaac Watts 1674-1748 "Against Idleness nd Mischief."

I've been so busy lately there's not been much time left over to work on my novel. It seems that every once in awhile I get bogged down with the 'busy stuff' of living a writer's life. For one thing, I'm teaching writing classes two nights a week for the School Board, one night at home in a private workshop and one morning a week with my Memoir's group. This is my 'bread and butter', my 'employment' as a writer. Aside from that I only have my pensions to live on or the occasional (rare) sale of a travel article (peanuts these days!) or the bonus of being invited to do special workshops. (I did a travel writing day at a college which paid super well and I'll be doing a travel writing workshop at the Summer Dreams Festival this summer.) I have also started to do editing on the side as a supplement to my income. Of course, all these tasks, which are necessary to keep the bread on the table (and the wine on the shelf) take up some of your writing time.

Living the writer's life means you do not make very much money and have to be constantly out there looking for ways and means. (Sam has a very good blog right now about how much money writers make on their book sales http://samanthawinston.blogspot.com and questions whether writers should post their work as self promotion. I can tell you travel journalism is paying very poorly right now and a lot of publications expect you to give away your literary treasures which you've toiled hours over. Writers have to promote themselves and for some of us, that's hard to do. And often posting their work on web sites or blogs is a handy tool of reference for potential 'buyers'.) I do make quite a bit on tax refunds every year -- enough to pay for a ticket to my next exotic destination. But in order to collect back tax you have to also pay into it and show you are trying to make a living at your self-employment as a writer.

It's important also for writers to keep in contact with others of like mind, and to be involved in organizations that might help forward your career or at least allow you more contact with people in the 'trade'. I'm on the boards of the Pandora's Poetry Collective, the Theatre in the Raw, and the B.C. Travel Writer's Association. I'm also a member of the Federation of B.C. Writers. The Poetry Collective puts on the Summer Dreams Festival. The BCATW is hosting a gala in May. The FED is having their annual general meeting this weekend so I'm going over to Victoria to attend it. As well, they are offering workshops so I'm taking one on Memoir Writing. You can never learn too much! It's also an opportunity for me to visit my cousins. And a weekend away on the Island is always a treat. (I may even find enough time to visit the Titanic Exhibit at the museum.)

In addition, I attend my weekly critique group, the Scribblers. And this is what keeps me on track with my own writing. When I know I'm up to read, it helps me focus on getting on with my writing. Without this valuable input and influence I'd perhaps never gotten as far as I have with my novel (which is coming close to being finished.) I think it's important for writers to keep in close contact with other writers for support and encouragement. That includes keeping a blog and/or website. I've made valuable contacts with other writers right here on blogspot.

So goes my week these days. Busy as a bee. But it's all for a worthy cause -- money to live on and travel with, camaraderie with other writers and involvement in the arts and media events.

What do you do for your 'busy work'?

A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels."
William Cowper 1731 - 1800 "Retirement" (1782) l 615



8 comments:

Gabriele C. said...

Looks like winning the lottery or finding a rich husband has the better chances. :)

I can't even join writer organisations in Germany, because they're all so political (pseudo-communist/socialist/capitalisim is EVIL political, eww). I've decided to write for fun, and that's it.

Megumi said...

It's hard to write with a full-time job (you're right that for writers it' often best to "keep your day job"), but I do better if I have more to do. Something about having hours and hours and hours to do one thing makes me procrastinate. Having a job and then coming home makes me remember why I write in the first place: because I enjoy it.

I hope you finish your novel soon soon soon. :)

Sam said...

Hi Wynn!
It would be nice to be able to make a living writing, but it's a hand-to-mouth existance for most of us. I teach English and tutor, which pays a decent hourly wage, actually, and I do freelance artwork for a few clients. I'm lucky to live in France, where I don't have to worry about health insurance, and where the cost of living is pretty reasonable.
I'd like to make more money writing, and I keep trying to break into the 'NY market', which probably wouldn't make me rich, but might help pay some bills, lol.

Wynn Bexton said...

Hi All, and thanks for your responses. I think as writers we just have to find the ways and means and if we have a day-job then discipline ourselves so we get writing time in too. I actually wrote the bulk of my novel (as well as dozens of travel articles etc) while I was working full time. I'd come home at night and writer or on the weekends. Now I'm fortunate to have daytimes to write but in some ways having a longer block of time makes it easier to procrastinate. I'm lucky to have classes to teach and other ways to generate a little bit of money on the side too, otherwise I wouldn't be able to live the life I am enjoying and make the trips I love to go on.

lady macleod said...

Informative blog I find, and you made some excellent points about how you determine your own future by creating it; and creation begins in the mind does it not?

I look forward to being part of the community of writers that blog.

crickett

Lyn said...

Hi Wynn, I happened upon your blog as I was searching for an old family joke -- which my father remembers having as a punch line "Herbert burped." You had written about a story your uncle told at Christmas one year and it sounds similar. Do you remember anything more about the story? I have 4-year-old twins now, and would love to have them share this with my dad if I can just find the right story!! If you have time -- please email me clepre@utk.edu -- I'd love to know if I've finally happened on the right story. Love your blog; you are a wonderful writer.
--Lyn

Wynn Bexton said...

Thanks for all the responses. I answered Lyn's question re "herbert burped" but does anyone else have anything to add regarding this very funny story which I think was originated by a British comedian who used to recite it (and I forget his name now.) My uncle used to do this recitation every Christmas Eve when we were kids and it was quite hilarious.

Lyn said...

Hi Wynn, it's Lyn again. I came back tonight to see if you had replied and read that you had emailed me -- but nothing arrived! :( Maybe we can try again? I hate to be a bother! If you want to just post your reply, I'll be back! Or feel free to try emailing again -- clepre@utk.edu or you can try thelepres@charter.net. I'm so exicted that you might know the story! I hope to connect soon.
Thanks again for your time!