Writers, money, and the 9-to-5 grind

July 28th, 2017 by Bob Bly

As I turn 60, I look back and recall how different young writers were in the 70s when I started submitting my stories to magazines for publication — as compared with the new money-focused young wordsmiths today.

Back then, there was some odd notion that many writers had about
it being somehow romantic, cool, and even hip to be struggling in
poverty and obscurity …

… eating Kraft mac and cheese for dinner every night — and being
the proverbial writer “starving in a garret.”

The garret for me being my crappy, tiny, walk-up tenement studio
apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The goals were art, publication, literature, fame, and the
best-seller list first … and after that, then yes, money.

But for today’s writers, who aspire to getting rich in mere weeks
by selling information online rather than a novel to
HarperCollins (a publisher to whom I sold two paperback books on
Star Trek), money is the main thing, front and center …

… as is evidenced by the astounding popularity of all the
high-priced “make a million dollars with information marketing
online” programs being sold today.

In my day, you learned your craft in copywriting by reading used
copies of Ogilvy and Caples books you bought for a dollar at the
Strand.

Now people of all ages, from all walks of life, hand over their
credit card to buy training in info marketing and copywriting for
thousands of dollars a pop … without batting an eyelash.

But back in the day, the brighter writers were too smart to buy
into the “starving artist” mentality that many others embraced.

In his book Factotum, Charles Bukowski, who was poor for a lot of
his life, wrote:

“Starvation, unfortunately didn’t improve art … the myth of the
starving artist was a hoax.

“A man’s art was rooted in his stomach. A man could write much
better after eating a porterhouse steak than he could after
eating a nickel candy bar.”

How true!

And, like J. Jonah Jameson in the first Spiderman movie — who
tells Peter Parker, “Freelance is the ticket” —

–Bukowski, like so many other writers, was an advocate of
freelancing … and abhorred 9 to 5 jobs (which he was forced to
take for decades until he finally started making good money as a
freelance novelist and poet).

Bukoswki in Factotum again:

“How in hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30am by an
alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, piss, brush
teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where
essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were
asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”

I get this: when I had a 9 to 5 corporate job, I hated having to
set and waking up to an alarm, perform morning ablutions, put on
a suit and tie, and commute to be at work by 8 or 9am.

Ironically, as a freelancer, I get up every morning at 6am —
without an alarm clock — and have done so for decades.

Within 3 minutes of getting up each morning, I walk down a flight
of steps to my home office, turn on the PC, and start writing
immediately.

No need to waste valuable time making sure I am clean shaven, my
shirt freshly laundered and ironed, my shoes shined, my pie-hole
rinsed with mouthwash, and my hair neatly combed — as I did in my
days as an employee in corporate America.

I arise naturally, bright and bushy tailed, eager to dive into
the day, because I love freelance writing.

Always have. And hope, think, and am pretty confident I always
will.

We’ll see.

But now in my 38th year of being a writer — so far, so good.

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This entry was posted on Friday, July 28th, 2017 at 2:47 pm and is filed under Writing. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 responses about “Writers, money, and the 9-to-5 grind”

  1. Josue said:

    “Now people of all ages, from all walks of life, hand over their
    credit card to buy training in info marketing and copywriting for
    thousands of dollars a pop … without batting an eyelash.” I agree 100% with this part…

  2. Miguel said:

    Bob, on those times that Ogilvy and Caples were the references, where you got information to succeed as a Freelancer? Ther wasnt info products/ training on that?
    I guess people didnt had that aim earlier, first had to prove they were good on agencies and than become a Freelancer.
    Thank you.

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