|"You mean, I can't just sit here and type and get paid?"|
I've been talking to lots of author friends lately about how they make money.
Because, you know: very few people make a living from their books. Just, FYI. Either you live off the largesse of a supportive and well-remunerated spouse, or you have a day job. Or day jobs.
In my case, I have a little of both. Below is an account of the work I've done.
In addition to writing about the sleazy angst of teenagers, my main marketable skill is teaching. After I finished my undergrad (a very pragmatic mix of Hispanic Studies & Creative Writing), I went back to school to take coursework to teach high school. In fact, I am currently licensed in the state of Minnesota to teach Spanish to grades 7-12. In my parents' basement is a load of files and curricula and posters and weird ephemera that I used when I was employed as a Spanish teacher. It's very hard to get rid of, because I know how much work it was to create. Perish the thought that I or a school ever gets desperate enough to hire me as their Spanish teacher! But I still hang on to the materials.
It turns out, though, that pedagogy and experience in a classroom translate across content. Now I teach writing at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I've been doing that, primarily for teenagers, but at times for adults, since 2007. I continue to do so; I'm considering doing an online class for adults this fall. I find the problems involved in teaching very enjoyable, even if I think they are separate from the problems involved in writing stories.
In general, teaching is not about what I think. It's external work, pushing my own concerns aside for the concerns of students. It's hard work and it's never ever boring. It takes up a lot of my emotions. It makes me question what I think I know. It's very invigorating. It's also very exhausting at times. But being a bad teacher is ever more exhausting.
Writers who teach full-time have my eternal empathy. They give and give to their students and then must try to give and give to their fake people.
|Teaching Writing: Not as glamorous|
Freelance writing is often astonishing in that it amazes me the lengths professionals will go to avoid writing. They will ask me to do things I find shockingly easy. Then they pay me. Whee! It's kind of insane. But these are people who are experts at other things; they don't want to wear themselves out with skills they don't possess. Below are some things I've done to make money with writing:
- sales emails, brochures, and mission statements for businesses
- web copy for boutique photographers' websites, a job website, a real estate blog, a fitness blog & several alt-weeklies that no longer exist
- ad copy for products like single malt scotch, perfumes, golf clubs, and lipsticks for a luxury website
- random essays for newspapers and magazines
- social media content for business Facebook pages and websites
- manuscript critique for novels (via The Loft)
|Writing stuff for money: generally not the most scintillating work. That's why you get paid.|
Other Ways I've Made Money
You might ask what influence teaching and writing for money have on my own fiction.
The answer: very little. The work I do with teenagers obviously provides me with a sense of their concerns and their deportment and speech rhythms, yes. Writing for money? Nothing I can think of.
It is really the Other Jobs I've Had that inform the stories I make up. For example:
- print room assistant for generator manufacturer
- house-cleaner / nanny
- patient intake rep for hospital emergency room
- thrift store employee
- waitress at Happy Chef
- hostess at a 50's grill and a Holiday Inn restaurant
- daycare center employee (infants and toddlers)
- dishwasher at a 50's grill
- waitress at Little Caesar's (my hometown used to have a dine-in Little Caesar's, yes)
- book seller for Barnes & Noble
- high school cheerleading coach (note: I never was a cheerleader)
- administrative assistant for Giant Private Agricultural Corporation
- human resources scheduler for Giant Financial Corporation
Even if you get a book deal or an agent, you will probably keep your day job. Not just because you don't want to end up living under a bridge. But because there is more to being a good writer than just "writing." You need to be a part of the world by exploring it. You might as well make a few bucks at the same time, right?
|This is important, yall. Don't be ashamed.|