Poets, as a class, are business men. Shakespeare describes the poet’s eye as rolling in a fine frenzy from heaven to earth…but in practice you will find that one corner of that eye is generally glued on the royalty returns.
–P G Wodehouse, Uncle Fred in the Springtime
Along with “I could never let anyone change my work” and “why give an agent 15% of my income? I wrote it!” I consider “money doesn’t matter” one of the hallmark phrases of the amateur writer—indeed the amateur adult.
Of course money does not matter! Not in the long run. Anybody who has stood at the bedside and touched the cold forehead of a dead parent, anybody who has received the gift of that clear moment when you realize you truly, truly cannot take it with you, that you have only this spare span of breath to live in, knows that money does not matter.
But for now, in order to eat so one can write, it does. It’s just something you’ve got to sort out so you can get on with living and writing.
Indeed, writers and artists of all kinds should study at becoming financially independent more than other folks, because our income is so much more capricious. People love what you do one day, then move on the next. Of course they do. Don’t you? So the sooner you find a way to step out of the rat race for money the better.
My favorite website for achieving financial independence is run by Mr Money Mustache. His motto: “financial independence through badassity.” What’s not to like? There’s lots of humor and swearing. If Mr Money Mustache isn’t your style, though, I highly recommend the book Your Money or Your Life. Similar principles, no swearing. And Suze Orman has a lot of good advice in her book The Nine Steps to Financial Freedom, too, if you like reading books by people in fancy clothes.
So who cares if handling filthy lucre makes you feel odd, or balancing your checkbook gives you a stomach ache, or you are fairly sure that you will be much, much happier if you upgrade your smartphone? Eat a piece of candied ginger and get on with it. Because what happens on the other side, when the bills are paid and you know your financial house is in order, is you get more writing done because you aren’t wasting energy freaking out about cash flow or working too much at your day job. More of everything, in fact: hanging out happily with your peeps, making and eating tasty food, doing stuff I won’t mention in front of the kids, whatever it is you do for happiness.
Cowgirl up. As mentioned in previous post, one of the secrets to being a good artist of any kind, I have found, is getting the crap out of the way so you can work. Teach your kids to make their own lunches at the earliest possible age. Organize your desk the same way forever. Don’t waste time on exhausting people. Get an agent to help you with the stuff you are not good at or don’t have time for. All of these things clear the crap out of the way so you can work. Having a healthy and organized financial life is no exception.
And will having a clear understanding of your financial wellbeing affect your writing in bad ways? Will you go commercial and destroy all your artistic values?
I find that I am far less likely to be swayed by what my (imagined) audience wants to read if I am not desperate to earn a living from them. If you understand and keep a rein on your money you’re much less likely to go commercial, sell out, give in to the Man. You are free to give the Man the finger if you don’t need his paycheck.
Also, don’t confuse “selling out” with “actually communicating with your readers.” These are two different things. One can lead to crap art. The other usually doesn’t. But again, that’s another blog post.
Go read Mr Money Mustache and then get back here and tell me what you think. And get on with changing your life for the awesomer.
(Yes, I can say “awesomer.” I’m a professional.)
Have you already begun putting your finances in order? What’s your favorite method? Do you like swearing while doing it?