Back to Work


I started back at work yesterday, for the year. That sentence seems strange, because my perception of what my work is has changed. A Facebook Friend commented on one of my posts a few weeks ago that I ‘sounded like a writer’ or something like that, I can’t recall the exact wording; my response to her was that I AM a writer. Everything else is tourism.

Over the last few weeks I’ve earned about $3500 from my writing. There are lots of statistics out there about annual income for writers and so on, but the general upshot is this: it’s paltry. Half of a fifth of one percent of writers are able to support themselves with their words; okay, I made that fraction up, but you get the idea. I may never get to that point, especially since I have other mouths to feed than mine. But I’m very, very happy to have had such a lucrative month.

An endless list of famous writers had to support themselves with ‘daytime jobs’–Trollope worked in a post office, Philip Larkin was a university librarian, David Ireland wrote a couple of his early novels–The Unknown Industrial Prisoner among them, I think–while working at a Shell oil refinery in Sydney.

So for my day job, and for my sins, I teach high school English. (So did Stephen King, before he became one of the half of a fifth of a percent.) This is good and bad; it’s good because teenagers fascinate me endlessly and I get to talk to them all day about literature. It’s bad because, done properly, teaching is thoroughly exhausting and time consuming. It’s difficult to find the balance, then, between being a teacher and a writer. I’m writing this at 6.15 in the morning and my habit has been to rise at about five or five thirty and write for an hour or so in the mornings before my family wakes up, and I hope I can continue this well into the school term, before exhaustion sets in.

But, and this is important, I’m only teaching now to pay the bills. My real work happens in that hour every morning, when I do what I was made to do. I hope that every writer, every artist, reaches that point in their creative lives sooner rather than later. Money is a merciless god; I would much rather worship words.

Thanks for reading.