Thursday, 27 February 2014

Pity the poor writer. Or don't, if you've got it worse.

I’ve got enough self-pity for all of us. About 15 years ago, in the midst of a welter of self-harming friends, court cases, sleep deprivation, excessive responsibility and a sore hoohoo along with the rest, someone said to me: it’s not a competition.
About 30 years ago, when I was wailing on my bed about having been dumped, someone said to me, it could be worse, you could be starving in Africa.

It’s not a competition. It could be worse. That doesn’t mean it’s not horrible. I’m having a shit-there’s-no-money week at the end of a shit-there’s-no-money month. There’s still a roof over our heads. There’s the makings of at least two meals in the freezer, though they won’t be very nice and may or may not involve at least one portion of something that’s incubating a few toxins. Because it’s been in the freezer against emergencies through a power outage when we were away and too skint to top up the electricity meter.

But I am a Professional Writer. I’ve been Published. If I want to be Published again, I can’t own up to being broke. I’ve got to smile sweetly when someone forgot to pass the invoice to the accounts department, or comes out with the old actually-we-don’t-pay-till-next-week-oops-sorry-next-month and say never mind, doesn’t matter. Because these days just about everyone who works in the arts or the media has parents who will bail them out or already gave them a trust fund, and thinks being broke means shopping at Tescos rather than Waitrose, and consider it a bit peculiar and ‘difficult’ and ‘demanding’ of freelancers or authors to be concerned about money. 


So then it comes down to the point where the cable bill hasn’t been paid and therefore the internet is off, and the emergency dongle all of a sudden has a minimum connection fee of a fiver when you only have two pounds, and even when you’ve paid it, you're on the old computer because the decent one's been pawned, as has everything else that isn't nailed down. So the connection is apocalyptically unstable and after you’ve hit Page Unresponsive Reload about 25 times you still can’t get where you want to be, and therefore can’t fulfil the promises you made and all the duties that are now expected of a writer, And OK, you're not needing a referral to the food bank yet, but all that's in your inbox is chirpy requests to submit work to organisations that 'don't have a budget but it will be great exposure for you', then maybe you start thinking that it’s not just writers who should be aware there’s something wrong somewhere.

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