The Business of Writing

There are sometimes when I so get why the Guardian columnist Tim Dowling describes his occupation as ‘businessman.’ Writers are, by and large, self-employed or freelance. Most of my writing income comes from teaching creative writing classes. Do you know how hard it is to get insurance if you are a ‘creative?’ I need to get 2.6 million euros worth of public liability to take people on haiku walks and put them through their writing paces in classes. Outdoor writing workshops really threw some underwriters and some of the quotes I got were incredibly jacked up. And let me be clear. I am never ever going to promise that you will become a best seller by taking my classes! There now! I shall never need professional indemnity insurance ever.

The only other creatives who seem to have it harder than writers to get insurance (unless you are employed as a technical of copywriter, those they get!) are artists. A sculptor friend has wailed on Facebook how most insurance companies won’t even talk her. It’s like ‘creatives’ are invisible. Or so wild as to be combustible substances on airplanes.Yeah, that dangerous. And while it can be charming to think of yourself as a desperado for two minutes, the reality of actually being capable of putting butter on your breakfast toast without insurance sinks in. The reality is that a third of those listing writing as a profession earn £10,000 (or less!) annually. Many of those earning more are in paid permanent employment. And much of freelancer (unpaid) time gets spent pitching for paying gigs. Nuala McKeever, in her speech at Enniskillen’s Network for Enterprising Women, highlighted this freelancer fact. And there will be times, when as hard as you pitch, you cannot even get arrested for breaking someone’s window. Most of January found me writing out proposals for grant funded workshop gigs. The self-promotion can feel humiliating and excoriating at times. And it is relentless. Partners and spouses subsidise a lot of creative work and businesswomen’s dreams of entrepreneurship.

So poetry practice reflects the darker side of the writing life. There are rewards (mostly spiritual, psychological, emotional), but let me not kid you. This is the reality check.

The Business of Writing

When I am not writing
I am cleaning cat litter
trying not to be bitter
about others published
triumphs. Feeling rubbish.
Self-doubt dogs the less brave.

When I am not writing
I am walking both the dogs
trying to twirl the cogs,
praying for inspiration,
wanting validation -
considering my grave...

When I am not writing
I can get kind of morose.
I tend to binge on sucrose.
Reading helps. It's half-way
to writing. Don't envy!
(Telling myself, "Behave!")

This is the writing  business.
The time spent not writing,
when you are reading, teaching
others this sublime torture
as we try to author
books and poems we crave.

This is the writing business -
the daily rising and the falls.
Skinned ego, the mental brawls.
But every now and then
the words fall right from pen
onto paper. I'm saved.

This is the writing business.
When the words fall right, I write,
just losing all my falseness.
I am both meteorite
and spiralling ammonite.
This is the writing business.

Copyright © 2019 Bee Smith. All rights reserved.

Featured Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash