last night, moon on the hill
how many times before
have I been bird, leaf
single blade of grass?
tonight, a small mist followed
This made me smile: 'You are a divine elephant with amnesia trying to live in an ant hole.' (Hafiz)
Amnesia's doing fine. Divine elephant gone absent without trace. Ant hole's a tight fit this morning. Royalty statement for 6 months' sales: £9.31 (yep – no not a mistake with the decimal point, sadly). Rude words. That's for the novel, out last March. The poetry, out last May, hasn't earned any royalties yet – come to think of it, I've had no contract either... And both have had good reviews on amazon.
I say that: Imago has had 8 excellent reviews, 1 good, a couple of iffy ones, and a negative one (someone who didn't seem to have either got the point or maybe even the book itself... and perhaps had a hidden agenda...?). There's a rash of tickbox negatives on the positive reviews, if you get what I mean: '0 out of 1 people found this review helpful'. Tourette's sufferer? Since the negative review didn't have any rating, is there a connection between this critic and the rashmaker? Very interesting that all of the 5-star positive ratings bar the latest on the poetry collection, Bardo, have attracted the same '0 out of 1 person found this helpful' tickbox compulsion. Well, can't please them all. Stick head above parapet, etc.
I think people have this romantic image of the Writer chewing pen, swigging absinthe, pouring words like fire onto the page, selling work, swanning around gazing out of windows or over wondrous landscape, hands in pockets, 'don't interrupt me – can't you see I'm working?', taking long holidays in exotic places awaiting inspiration, etc.
The reality of course is that we write because we're passionate about it, because nothing else fills that place, because it's as crucial as breathing; but it's a really hard graft with long and unsociable hours and continual chasing of the next little piece of paid work in some erratic and uncertain writing-related field (or at least, that's how it is for me).
My accountant used to suggest I ran more courses, as they brought in more money. I did, and they did. Now they don't (it's a recession and too many institutions offer subsidised certificated courses). In 2009 he suggested I thought about supplementing my pitiful income by book-keeping (me?? Has he no soul?? Plus I failed my maths O level twice!). In 2010 he suggested I'd do better on the checkout at Tesco. I responded not. This year he didn't make a single suggestion. Am well beyond the pale (or is it 'pail'? Remind me what it means?), well-broke, irredeemable, dogged, pigheaded and sheer bloody-minded about doing it my way.
And – grit teeth – am not giving up. I love what I do. But I say to myself 'Don't give up the day job, girl.' Oh wait – this is the day job!
This is info from the 2000 Society of Authors' survey of UK writers' earnings:
- 75% of authors earned under £20,000 in 1999
- The average writer's annual income was £16,000
- Only 5% (82) of authors polled earned more than £75,000
- Only 3% (51) earned over £100,000.
- Although the national average wage was £20,919 when the report was compiled, 61% of the writers polled earned under £10,000
- 46% earned under £5,000, of whom 123 said that writing was their main source of income, while 14 had no other source of income at all. (My italics)
The level of advances is dropping. The majority of advances are under £5,000. Only 51% of writers said that more than half their works earned out their advances (advances are what they say they are: advance on estimated royalties. In other words, you get zero dosh after the advance until your book sale royalties earn more than the advance you were given). My first advance, in 1993, in the low 4 figures, was higher than any since, and the last 5 books have had no advance at all. Hey ho.
Lots and lots of stress lately. Bad news on the blood pressure front. Good news though is that the understanding nurse went off to make a cup of coffee for herself while I took five minutes to meditate in her room after the first high reading. After just these few minutes I'd dropped the systolic – top – reading by 20 points (bottom diastolic remains worryingly high). 'That's exceptional!' she said (of the reduced systolic).
OK. Time to get a grip. OK healthy wealthy world here I come. After I've made a cup of something disappointingly caffeine- and absinthe-free, looked out the window at the wondrous view, booked that exotic holiday on my earnings, and slouched around a bit more waiting for the Muse to descend... There again, I'm free to go for a walk whenever I like. Maybe now?
ADDENDUM: just had the library lending statement (PLR) for 2011. Hey! I earned £15.55! Enough for flour for 8 or 9 loaves! (Well, half a dozen organic spelt flour ones, anyway.) Or might it stretch to a bottle of absinthe?