Not A Starving Artist

Not a Starving Artist

Not A Starving Artist

Earlier in the week the incredibly switched on Hilary Copeland, General Manager of the John Hewitt Society sent me a link to the Harry Giles blog post breaking down the evolution of his finances as an artist.

Over a four-year period, it shows a shift from the majority of his earnings coming from non-artistic work to artistic work and growing overall but as he points out,

the majority of artists work for absurdly long hours for ridiculously little pay and to much unseen public benefit.

And he’s right.

In a world saturated by 24×7 media, there is no such thing as a sustained overnight success. Sure you can get your 15 minutes of youtube fame but waving your million views at the till in the supermarket isn’t getting you fed anytime soon. Even if you’ve got some of that Google sponsorship money, there’s no guarantee the public will line up for ‘Charlie Bit my Finger 2’ or ‘Sneezing baby panda – This time it’s twins.’

Art, regardless of what it is, is the endurance of many things for little to no recognition and rarely for remuneration. That doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to stop doing it anytime soon which is good because life would be shit without art but it does mean getting creative in other ways to bring in money from non-art sources.

I took a short story writing class with Carlo Gebler 5 years ago and when I told him I wanted to write full time he was very firm on one thing

“get 50% of your income from something other than books.”

I ignored that advice, quit my day job and launched myself into the full-time career as a writer no-one knows.

It’s a bit bleak out here.

It’s bloody dire. It’s mostly made up of aspiring writers complaining they can’t get time to finish their books, new writers complaining their agents / publishers aren’t doing enough to sell their books, and established writers avoiding the repeated question about how they got their break because no one really wants to hear that you’ve got to write a lot, read a lot, build relationships and never stop and by the way if you thought this was going to be glamorous and easier that a regular day job wait until you’re on your eighth book, barely getting by and the local newspaper calls you an overnight success because your first seven books sunk without a trace.

But they all still do it, they all still hammer away at their word counts every chance they get while doing whatever it takes to get by because putting book after book after book out there is the only thing that matters. It’s not a hobby or even a job it’s a calling where nothing else will do.

I got nervous, looked at the dwindling funds in the bank account and wondered if a fake moustache and ambiguous foreign accent would be enough to get my old job back under a false identity, but the thought of taking a step backwards wearied me.

So I did something else.

I did lots of something else for a while, little pieces of marketing here and there. Some paid, most not, but it all gave me plenty of writing time as money trickled in help with bills and took the pressure off.

Little jobs led to bigger jobs and a part-time Marketing Manager role with Urban Beauty, a local tanning, hair, and beauty salon. The Marketing role there brought more offers and this week I began the process of setting up Grow and Profit, a direct digital marketing agency for small businesses with a few clients already on the books

I didn’t plan it and didn’t expect it to be something I’d be doing this time last year, but bills are getting paid, writing is getting done and working with real people makes sure I don’t spend three weeks in a dirty nightshirt with tissue boxes for shoes. That’s not a joke. The record was four days, and I couldn’t find my flip-flops.

Like Harry Giles, my first year will have a little income from my art, but it’s ok because I’m doing something I enjoy, working with people who are as passionate about their business as I am about writing, and I’m still getting the time and flexibility to write every day.

I’ve got no other choice becasue nothing will do until I get every book in my head onto a page.

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Stephen Gordon

Stephen Gordon is a writer based in Northern Ireland. He writes thrillers, murder mysteries and science fiction. He also blogs and podcasts about writing, marketing and getting stuff done.
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