This is the strangest (best?) part of having a book come out. Celebrating. I was listening to a lot of podcasts yesterday (Wendy Ortiz on Other People Pod and Claire Danes on WTF ) and I think it was Brad Listi who said writers are private exhibitionists.
I love that term. Since December I have spent most days writing my book. From 9 to 3. I literally shower at 5 or 6pm. No one but my editor and a couple close friends were reading it.
And then your book releases, and anyone who wants to can read your private words. It always feels like coming out of a closet. It feels both AMAZING and DISTURBING and it’s a good practice for holding two things at once.
Sometimes writers email me with questions. I get at least a few a month. The author Liz Scheid recently wrote and asked me what I do for money. She wanted a job that doesn’t drain her creative energy. She teaches composition at the moment. She assumed I had an MFA. I do not. I went to one year of community college then moved to NYC and didn’t go back. I did take 4 courses of writing through Gotham in New York. She’s not the first person to ask me these questions so I wanted to write a little bit about it here.
This is what I do for money:
I teach a 4 week online class for Litreactor each season. I teach creative writing for teenagers once in a while through venues in my community in Hudson, NY. I’m a server for a catering company on the weekends. I work one day a week at my dad’s music store. I nanny when the opportunity arises. I find outlets that can pay me for my essays. I hustle. I ask people to please by my books from me directly, and some beautiful people do! I work one on one with essayists at times. What I do for money is always different.
This has all been great, because essentially I work from home; I work for myself, thus, I was able to find enough time to dedicate to writing this book. Having books being published doesn’t mean money. I did not receive a book advance for Legs Get Led Astray. I did get one for Women. One that some would consider tiny, but I considered large. It is all relative.
The most money I have received from writing, has come from these places in this order: Short Flight/Long Drive, Thought Catalog, Men’s Health, and Audible.
And I’d be a liar if I didn’t say that I love working from home. Absolutely I do. I love not getting dressed and eating and drinking whenever I want and being on my own schedule. I love having the time to apply for a writing residency or organize my books look for a certain scene in a movie that I am writing about and make phone calls. And I don’t have the looming debt of college loans hanging over me, so I don’t feel like I’m doing anything wrong by living way—by putting my writing first. And I only have myself. I don’t have kids. I don’t have pets. I don’t have a spouse. And living this way–my creativity is not drained. And that is VERY important to me.
But it’s a toss up. I don’t have a car. I don’t have a savings account. I don’t have a credit card. I live hand to mouth. I often do not know how I will pay my rent. I am, essentially what they call, broke. But I get to do what I like/love for the most part, so I have my mental health. The lifestyle is not for everyone. It would cause some WAY too much anxiety. But it works for me. For now. That’s not to say I don’t some days fantasize about having security and a nine to five job and benefits.
If you’re interested in this stuff like I am, The Rumpus recently started a podcast called Make Work, where writers talk about what they do for $. I haven’t listened to it yet, but I want to.
Every creative laborer has a different story to tell about how they negotiate their relationship between their creative work and their paycheck and how they balance their lives to sustain their creative practice. In Make/Work, Scott will speak with emerging and established artists working in a wide range of creative mediums about how they survive, how they make a living, and how they maintain their work over the long term.
Anyway. This photo above of me is from one of the outtakes from the photo shoot I did for GRAZIA UK. Taken by Mike McGregor. I was excited because Mike has met/taken photos of “cool” people like the writers Shelia Heti and Meghan O’Rourke and one of my favorite musicians: ANTONY. This was towards the end of the shoot, and he was like, there’s an awesome roof, let’s go outside. So we were out on a roof in Kingston, NY. I like the photo because I never wear white. I wear black mostly. And when the stylist pulled out these jeans, I like, oh boy. The jeans and shirt were both from Banana Republc. Anyway, it’s so not me, that I like it. I’ve always enjoyed wearing things that are not mine.
Come to the book release if you’re in the NYC area. Details are here. It’s at Housingworks on Crosby Street. I learned yesterday that Claire Danes grew up on Crosby Street. (Not actually a big Clare Danes fan or anything, although, maybe now I am?)