It’s been a while, guys. That wasn’t the way it was meant to be, but there are a series of unremarkable things that happen in life that can push an author in unintended directions. Case in point: what happens (or doesn’t happen) at work. A vast majority of us indiefolk have to do other kinds of work for a living. Many of us belong to the so-called precariat: we hold casual positions at work which don’t allow us to think in terms of earning so much a month, because there are months in which we don’t earn anything.
Gone are the days in which an academic like me had the chance of being employed full-time. Managing money has become “a thing” in itself and it saps my creative energy. I happened to be discussing this with a dear friend of mine this arvo when she nodded and said something like ‘Yeah, having money and a room of one’s own.’ It was Virginia Woolf who wrote those words in an essay that would become a classic in feminist thinking:
…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction; and that, as you will see, leaves the great problem of the true nature of woman and the true nature of fiction unsolved…
I can’t complain about the little room where I do my writing (when my mental state allows me to). Even the local library where I live counts as a “room of my own” with a breathtaking view of the Blue Mountains. We can discuss “the true nature of woman” till the cows come home. In any case, this isn’t what I intend to do here. I guess that what I want to discuss is the role of money in the life of a writer. Yes, that unspeakable monstrosity, that hideous vulgarity. Money, or lack thereof, that can hold back many a creative soul and their creative career.
Every time I want to find an answer to life’s dilemmas, I ask Google. Yeah, effin’ Google and its nerdy relative Google Scholar, my true ally in these days of post-truths. A couple of days ago I came across a very cool website run by Mark McGuinness, poet and coach. In this well worded article he discusses the uneasy relationship that creative people have with money, and he does nail it on most counts. Many authors think that money isn’t important; they don’t know how to get it or don’t know how much they’re worth; they don’t want to sell out or look greedy; not to mention that in countless cases they don’t know how to manage it or spend it.
If I use the third person singular “they” it’s because I’ve got a very clear idea of the role of money in my life. I’m also painfully aware that the need to have a “day job” will be there for who knows how long because very few creative writers make a living as such. I’m not saying I’ve given up; on the contrary, I believe there could be a future working as a creative writer for me. But in the meantime I have to support myself in a different way, namely through a “day job”. A stable “day job”.
‘These are hard times for dreamers,’ said the porno shop assistant in the movie Amélie. I’d say they’re hard times for those of us that want to make a living without making a fuss. Of course I want to make a living selling novels and collections of short stories, but in order to write them I need the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my bills are paid.
Must leave you now. I need to continue fighting the bad guys and keeping the wolf from the door. Catcha later 🙂
Many years ago I read Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estés’ groundbreaking book “Women That Run with the Wolves”.
At least for me it was completely groundbreaking. It gave me the possibility of re-reading stories that are part of universal lore presented in an erudite, “exegetic” book. As it happens with many of these good books, WTRWTW crossed my path by chance (or perhaps not) at Cairns airport while waiting for a connecting flight back to Sydney. I had to “kill” nearly four hours in between flights, so I decided that the best thing to do would be to buy myself a book. Probably the best “impulse purchase” of my whole life, and believe me when I say I’ve allowed myself more than my fair share of impulse purchases …
Nearly nineteen years after that afternoon at Cairns airport, a few weeks ago at the gym, I bumped into Lauren Kennedy, one of my gym and aqua mates. After the Body Balance class we both took, she pinned up a poster on the communal corkboard at the entrance:
I didn’t have to think it over twice, and announced to Lauren that I wanted to participate and a few hours later I signed up for Wild Women Wakening. More often than not, those hunches tend to work to my advantage when they’re informed by deep intuitive knowledge rather than on a whim. Clarissa Pinkola Estés, the wolves and the enormous wealth of intuitive knowledge that “Women That Run with the Wolves” brought into my life was conjured up from my subconscious depths. Yay! 🙂
On Day 1, though, I was feeling really sad and disconnected. My creative thoughts had gone missing in action, until Lauren handed us our sketchbooks. My drawing is pretty bad, but colour pencils lit a pilot creative light that flickered on. I wrote this:
We spoke about “La Loba” and read the short story from WTRWTW. I had this vision of a trip in the desert, with all its typical colours. I’m driving a Tesla car, and quickly find myself in the middle of nowhere. Fear turns into panic and I stop.
The sky is studded by a million stars and I begin to yield into the grandeur of its infinity and mystery.
“I don’t know where I am. I don’t know and I don’t care.
No sé dónde estoy. No sé ni me importa.
Without giving it a second thought, I step out of the car. Nothing around me, nothing but “darkness visible”.
I should be…
But I am not! And yet I know I’m not alone. She’s with me — La Loba!
I don’t dare turn around. My feet won’t move.
FROZEN FEET, FROZEN ME!
Stars everywhere, but no Moon.
‘Hear me!’ says La Loba. ‘Oi!’
I feel like an impostor, but she doesn’t know.
‘Hear me!’ she repeats. ‘You’ll be fine. You’re not alone. You’ll be a friend of the stars. I’m here and so are the bones… Those bones…’
At the sole mention of bones, I’m left wondering if I should be afraid, but I’m not.
‘I’ll teach you things. You’ll start with bones and create life. BE LIFE! You’re not alone!‘
In all fairness to my dear readers, I have to say I had intended to write a “diary” of the workshop, which has already run for a whole month and will continue until the end of April. But in the same breath I decided that the creative “muscle” that I’m exercising every Monday morning doesn’t need to become part of a discussion in the online world. Some “innerspaces” should remain so, methinks. Self-marketing time lasted almost two years (part of 2014 and most of 2015). I’m now engaged in self-reflection, and enjoying it 🙂
All the same I’d love to mention my fearless fellow “creatresses”, Marilyn and Claire, in whom I found kindred spirits, as well as in Lauren herself. It’s become a very exciting part of my weekly routine to catch up with them in that beautiful space we share in Mount Victoria, and share our personal creative journeys in a spirit of cooperation and mutual support.
Stupid people are hard at it. Whatever they do, there are times in which they incite outrage. Someone shared this ‘brain fart’ it in a tweet early this morning, and later a friend of mine shared it on Facebook. I found it so distasteful and outrageous that I need to vent about it here.
We Australians are saddened by Colleen McCullough’s passing. I’d like to say a few words about her and her work. But first I need to get this off my chest: some airhead journo from “The Australian” or any other Murdoch newspaper (it doesn’t really matter; they’re all the same) decided to make a very ungracious comment about the late Dr McCullough’s physical appearance. I can’t bear to repeat it, but will share the incriminating evidence that has been doing the rounds. Pathetic is the first word that comes to mind, and then a flood of four-letter words.
“The Guardian” published a column by Elle Hunt in the Australia Books Blog that captures the mood among those of us that admired Colleen and grew up enjoying her books. Some of the tweets that this article reproduces are a scream, and patently show that thinking people won’t buy a third-rate piece written by a dimwit.
Such a comment on someone’s appearance in their obituary is what I call “Fifty Shades Of Non-Thinking”. Nuff said.
What I do want to write about is what Colleen McCullough means to me: she’s the first Australian writer who opened my eyes to Australia when I was a very young girl living in Argentina. I first read a very poor Spanish translation from my mother’s bookcase, but a couple of years later I got hold of the English version and enjoyed it no end. The landscape and the consequences of a natural disaster had a few striking similarities with the Argentinian hinterland. I did fall in love with Father Ralph de Bricassart and felt for Meggie. Fee’s life and the decisions that she had to take became an eye opener into how life can be “unromantic” and yet full of love between a man and a woman.
Colleen was an accomplished scientist and started writing after a relationship breakup (I can relate to that, even though I never finished what I started after that disaster in my love life). She was a ‘voracious reader’ who came from an Australian-New Zealander family, born in Central-West NSW. She worked as a teacher, librarian and journalist before she started her studies at Sydney Uni, where she graduated as a neuroscientist (I have to confess I didn’t know that about her). She had a remarkable academic career in the UK and the US—at the University of Yale, no less!
Her first novel, Tim, was written in 1974. You can find her bibliography in countless websites, so I’m not going to bore you with that sort of detail. The Thorn Birds was her second novel and became an international bestseller that was later turned into a successful TV miniseries.
I was stunned to find out that her last novel, published in 2013, is called Bittersweet. I’ll have to read it. In any case, I swear that my choice of title for my first work of fiction comes from a different source 🙂
Masters Of Rome is a superb collection of historical novels. I’ve never read it, but I applaud the fact that she chose to focus on the Republic, instead of revisiting the rather trite topic of imperial Rome. There’s a general consensus that Colleen did very thorough research on the topic.
What is it that I have learned from her as a writer? How is she a kind of role model for me? I suppose that if I could choose, I would love to become one of those writers who becomes the readers’ darling and can make an independent living on her works. I’d certainly love Bittersweet Symphony—or any of my future works for that matter—to be made into film or a dazzling TV miniseries. Prizes? Sure, they’re welcome, but many times they don’t bring home the bacon. The critics? Yeah, I know they’re there, and that they’re to be listened to (or read) once, and then quickly forgotten.
Germaine Greer said that The Thorn Birds was the ‘best bad book’ she knows. Certainly good ol’Germaine can be as ungracious as a nun criticising a young girl’s make up! But she can also be fair and praise the Australian setting of the novel. Good on her, but I can predict that Germaine will never become a national treasure as Colleen did! 🙂
My foot needs some attention. Catcha later, my dearests, FFJ 🙂