Thursday, 25 August 2011

Scrambled Eggs of Thought

I discovered with three weeks to go that I didn’t want to continue writing my Major Project, and pushed through with as much enthusiasm as I could in pursuit of a basic pass. This followed a brutal mentoring session where an entire portion needed rewriting in a voice I couldn’t stand in a genre, I discovered, I hated. The final work was as shabby as you would expect from forced writing. Throughout the MA emphasis has been placed on writing for money, which involves adopting the professional push-through and deliver-the-goods approach to writing when all enthusiasm has ebbed away.

As someone who struggles to finish work when all interest in the project has fizzled out, this raises some questions. Can forced writing for money or obligation ever match up to inspired, charged writing? Having never made any money from my writing (barring the odd token payment here and there, mostly $3), the prospect of being paid and eating is probably the best motivator for those with paid commissions. But what about the writer starting out who has to write everything for no money? Surely, all we have is our inspiration and energy? Why force ourselves if there are no external stimuli?

I can’t actually imagine making a living as a writer. This was, partly, the goal of the MA, but I don’t believe it’s really possible for me, and even if it is possible, it requires so much tireless hustling and scrambling and restless networking that goes against my nature. I am not the person who is ever in the right place at the right time. Even if I found the right place, I would avoid that right place and go to the wrong place out of spite. I am insane and wrong in the head. This is a fact and any deviation from this fact would be dangerous.

This is not to say I will stop writing or halt my productivity in any way. I love writing and will continue to work feverishly on all my projects. It’s merely to say I have to start thinking about a viable career option now, because writing is not a viable career option. I have, for the last five years, been walking around in an idealised haze, imagining it possible for a person to have a job in the arts and be paid for it. Nothing on the MA has convinced me that a writing career is possible without having to make enormous sacrifices, develop a finely-honed radar for opportunities and basically live hand to mouth. This isn’t a failure of the course, more my own reality.

So. There is really nothing appealing on a long-term basis about being a full-time writer. I don’t want the hassle. I like peace and calm and equanimity. I’d prefer to save the tumult for fiction. So as I leave my MA, it’s time to abandon the “career” option and find another discipline to pursue for money. So, where does that leave my writing? My writing will continue as the same life-sustaining force as always, and hopefullyusing all the techniques learned on my MAI can become an average writer among the millions of others average writers, and achieve some average success.

Now that’s a plan. Kind of.


  1. Funny. I've spent my last five - and then some - years doing the exact opposite. Getting an education in a field that isn't writing, convinced that this will be a more bread-winning lifestyle, that you need a "real" job to sustain the mal habit that is authorship. Only to find myself completely unemployed - seemingly unempoyable too - with personal funds of minus 400,000 NOK, and the only thing I want to do - even if I still am not doing it - is writing.

    Irony, thy name is planning. We can only aim to fill our days with what we like. The rest is up to divine or digressionary intervention, I'm convinced.

  2. Your story pleases and also displeases me, but seeing the flipside played out reminds us that writing, above anything else, is what really matters to us really. It's a strange double life we lead.