Ah money. It makes the world go round. But maybe not if you are writer. Truman Capote, I think it was him, was asked by a stranger what he did. I write, replied the great man. Good, that can be a lot of fun. But what’s your real job? “The profession of letters is the only one in which once can make no money without being ridiculous,” declared Jules Renard back in 1906. And out there among the wannabees, the beginners, the slowly rising and the retired late starters are a hundred Welsh literary creatives who do it mainly for the love and the fame. Pay money to poets? Why would anyone need to do that.
The problem, of course, is that
To do this, and to do it consistently and to do it well, requires a bit more from the author than simply love of literary fame. It’s not enough to want to be a writer. You need to have the talent and to have put in a bit of practice. You also need the space and support in which to work and a financial underpinning which will allow this to happen. Authors need to be professional. Good ones do.
But then again the maker of the paper on which the book was printed got paid. So too did the printer and the binder and the delivery man who carried the stock to the bookshop. The bookseller took a cut, and so did the electricity worker powering the fire beside which the book was eventually read. Why should the creator of the work itself not also be recompensed?
There are still those out there who imagine that literature is entirely something authors can churn out in spare moments. They should get proper jobs – in factories, in hospitals, in schools. Who needs books, we’ve got TV, where paying scriptwriters is regarded, somehow, as being different. There’s a lesson here.
A version of this posting appeared as The Insider in the Western Mail of 21st August, 2010. #161