The time-money paradox
Joanna Barnard won the Bath Novel Award in 2014 with a novel that eventually became ‘Precocious’, a highly enjoyable read. In an article on ‘Booksbywomen.org’ she describes how she felt on giving up work to write full time:
I suddenly had the luxury of time, stretched out before me, yet the ‘working day’ routine never quite worked for me. Maybe years of snatching time to write when and wherever I could, working long into the night and early in the morning, had conditioned me to write in weird bursts of energy followed by fallow weeks, and even months, where not a lot really got done. That’s how my year as a ‘full time writer’ panned out too. I spent a lot of time looking out of the window or, as I liked to call it, ‘thinking about the book’.
Eventually, she took on more work, and her writing became more productive despite having less time available. Therein lies the paradox. A survey by the Society of Authors found that writers’ earnings have dropped a shocking 42% in real terms since 2005, and now average less than £10,500 a year full time. That’s an appalling state of affairs and I am certainly not justifying it. Many writers are on the breadline as it is. Yet it’s also the case that writers often have more material to draw on when they have part time jobs, and sometimes it’s the very lack of time that enables them to concentrate their writing energies. There was a twitter exchange the other day that put this very well:
If you've ever thought that you would write a book if only you had the time – no one has the time. You have to make the time. Books are written like this, piece by piece, word by word, in the gaps of our days. (Heather Parry)
Shoutout to all those peeps sitting with their laptop on their knees on the train, trying to get their words down for the day. Or those rocking their baby with one foot while they write. Or those typing out a scene on their phones in the doctor’s waiting room. This ain’t easy. (Kirsty Logan)
So maybe most of us do need other jobs alongside our writing work – it would just be nice to be fairly remunerated for the latter.