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The Conversation We Never Have

December 19, 2013 Lifestyle, Writing 100 Comments



By Ann Bauer

Here’s my life. My husband and I get up each morning at 7 o’clock and he showers while I make coffee. By the time he’s dressed I’m already sitting at my desk writing. He kisses me goodbye then leaves for the job where he makes good money, draws excellent benefits, and gets many perks, such as travel, catered lunches and full reimbursement for the gym where I attend yoga mid-day. His career has allowed me to work only sporadically, as a consultant, in a field I enjoy.

All that disclosure is crass, I know. I’m sorry. Because in this world where women will sit around discussing the various topiary shapes of their bikini waxes, the conversation about money (or privilege) is the one we never have. Why? I think it’s the Marie Antoinette syndrome: those with privilege and luck don’t want the riffraff knowing the details. After all, if ‘those people” understood the differences in our lives, they might revolt. Or, God forbid, not see us as somehow more special, talented and/or deserving than them.

There’s a special version of this masquerade that we writers put on. Two examples:

I attended a packed reading (I’m talking 300+ people) about a year and a half ago. The author was very well-known, a magnificent nonfictionist who has, deservedly, won several big awards. He also happens to be the heir to a mammoth fortune. Mega-millions. In other words he’s a man who has never had to work one job, much less two. He has several children; I know, because they were at the reading with him, all lined up. I heard someone say they were all traveling with him, plus two nannies, on his worldwide tour.

None of this takes away from his brilliance. Yet, when an audience member—young, wide-eyed, clearly not clued in—rose to ask him how he’d managed to spend ten years writing his current masterpiece—What had he done to sustain himself and his family during that time?—he told her in a serious tone that it had been tough but he’d written a number of magazine articles to get by. I heard a titter pass through the half of the audience that knew the truth. But the author, impassive, moved on and left this woman thinking he’d supported his Manhattan life for a decade with a handful of pieces in The Nation and Salon.

Example two. A reading in a different city, featuring a 30-ish woman whose debut novel had just appeared on the front page of The New York Times Book Review. I didn’t love the book (a coming-of-age story set among wealthy teenagers) but many people I respect thought it was great, so I defer. The author had herself attended one of the big, east coast prep schools, while her parents were busy growing their careers on the New York literary scene. These were people—her parents—who traded Christmas cards with William Maxwell and had the Styrons over for dinner. She, the author, was their only beloved child.

After prep school, she’d earned two creative writing degrees (Iowa plus an Ivy). Her first book was being heralded by editors and reviewers all over the country, many of whom had watched her grow up. It was a phenomenon even before it hit book shelves. She was an immediate star.

When (again) an audience member, clearly an undergrad, rose to ask this glamorous writer to what she attributed her success, the woman paused then said that she had worked very very hard and she’d had some good training, but she thought in looking back it was her decision never to have children that had allowed her to become a true artist. If you have kids, she explained to the group of desperate nubile writers, you have to choose between them and your writing. Keep it pure. Don’t let yourself be distracted by a baby’s cry.

I was dumbfounded. I wanted to leap to my feet and shout. “Hello? Alice Munro! Doris Lessing! Joan Didion!” Of course, there are thousands of other extraordinary writers who managed to produce art despite motherhood. But the essential point was that, the quality of her book notwithstanding, this author’s chief advantage had nothing to do with her reproductive decisions. It was about connections. Straight up. She’d had them since birth.

In my opinion, we do an enormous “let them eat cake” disservice to our community when we obfuscate the circumstances that help us write, publish and in some way succeed. I can’t claim the wealth of the first author (not even close); nor do I have the connections of the second. I don’t have their fame either… But I do have a huge advantage over the writer who is living paycheck to paycheck, or lonely and isolated, or dealing with a medical condition, or working a full-time job.

How can I be so sure? Because I used to be poor, overworked and overwhelmed. And I produced zero books during that time. Throughout my 20s, I was married to an addict who tried valiantly (but failed, over and over) to stay straight. We had three children, one with autism, and lived in poverty for a long, wretched time. In my 30s I divorced the man because it was the only way out of constant crisis. For the next ten years, I worked two jobs and raised my three alone, without child support or the involvement of their dad.

I published my first novel at 39, but only after a teaching stint where I met some influential writers and three months living with my parents while I completed the first draft. After turning in that manuscript, I landed a pretty cushy magazine editor’s job. A year later, I met my second husband. For the first time I had a true partner, someone I could rely on who was there in every way for me and our kids. Life got easier. I produced a nonfiction book, a second novel and about 30 essays within a relatively short time.

Today, I am essentially “sponsored” by this very loving man who shows up at the end of the day, asks me how the writing went, pours me a glass of wine, then takes me out to eat. He accompanies me when I travel 500 miles to do a 75-minute reading, manages my finances, and never complains that my dark, heady little books have resulted in low advances and rather modest sales.

I just completed a third novel in eight months flat. I started the book while on a lovely vacation. Then I wrote happily and relatively quickly because I had the time and the funding, as well as help from my husband, my agent, and a very talented editor friend. Without all those advantages, I might be on page 52.

OK, there’s mine. Now show me yours.



Currently there are "100 comments" on this Article:

  1. Sue says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for writing this.

    • Judy Walters says:

      Thank you for being honest about this….a lot of people don’t understand the writing world, and how it works. Every day I think about my husband and how hard he works, which gives me the privilege of writing without making very much money at all. I know I couldn’t do this if I were working full time. I do have children, and they do come first.

      • AmandaHalm says:

        True, true. Thanks for sharing. I have worked as a professional writer for over 7 years. I quit my job to freelance and work on creative writing and then my husband was diagnosed with a very serious illness. Back to work.

        Like you, I also don’t come from a place of money or connections. No one ever acknowledges how their SES factors into their success. It’s not the wealth, it’s the connections.

        It made me feel better when you said your first novel was published when you were 39. Congrats! This is really inspiring to read.

      • I have never been supported and yet I have written about 10 fiction and non-fiction books by now, all except one still in print. How do I do it? I live in poverty. I always have just a part time job in order to have time and energy and psychic space left for writing. I am on food stamps, fuel assistance. I thank the Gods every day I live in MA because I have been able to have health care. Publishers expect me to cover all promotion and travel costs. The happiest writers I have met all had spouses or significant others helping them. Its tough karma to be a writer on your own, but some of us have no choice, it is what we were born to do.

  2. Perfect. True. Wonderful.
    Did I mention the truth?

    Co-authored and published a nonfic book in my 20s. My then-husband worked ful time. I worked pt. He took care of the (teeny) kids while I wrote.

    Divorces, I wrote pieces of (some wretched, some not) novels during my years of working well over full time, supporting 2 kids, yada yada yada.

    Married a wonderfully supportive man, we both worked. I wrote and wrote. Then, with the grace of help, I went to work part time and wrote far more. And had time. And that was how I was able to give myself a homemade mfa and finally write a novel that was published. Time. Money in the house. Connecting with wonderful authors (like the ones sharing this masthead) I met through Grub Street.

    Thanks, Ann

  3. This is such an interesting truth, Ann.

    I’ve long been intrigued by artists and writers and the crucible in which their work is created. Truly, connections and less financial stress do help tremendously, which makes it even more impressive when an artist or writer can honor their work and talent without them.

    Excellent discussion. Thank you!

  4. Pam Jenoff says:

    Brilliant! As an author with a day job and three preschoolers, I often feel like I am writing with one hand tied behind my back. But I’m still very grateful for it all. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Robin Black Robin Black says:

    Could not possibly agree more!
    I often say, in my MFA grad class a few of us had books come out pretty soon after graduation. We were ALL in the situation you describe – not responsible for putting food on the table. I tell people this and they think it’s a controversial statement as many of us have kids – so am I saying that being at home with kids isn’t work? Of course not! I am saying that after the mad toddler years, those hours when they’re in school are an opportunity to write that people who are out in offices all day do not have.
    Someone once told my husband who was thinking of penning a play at the time but couldn’t imagine WHEN that if he really WANTED to write he would find the time – she, a married novelist with no job – and we were both shocked at the degree to which this myth of endless energy for writing, no matter the 60 hour job and devotion to family time, is endlessly perpetuated. And also by her callousness and lack of awareness of her own good fortune.
    In general, no one wants to talk about money. Glad you broke the taboo, Ann. And how no one wants to admit that connections to people in the “industry” help either. . .which feels more to me like the final taboo because it has more potential to suggest that talent isn’t everything.

  6. Jo Anne Burgh says:

    Thanks for saying all this out loud.

    It’s not a coincidence that Virginia Woolf said that to write, a woman needs a room of her own and an income she didn’t earn. I have the room of my own (actually, the house of my own, occupied only by me and a few cats), but the income–ah, there’s the rub. Being self-employed as a legal researcher/writer has many benefits, but steady, predictable workflow and payment are not among them. This summer, when I had a significant work slowdown, I decided to devote the time to writing fiction, and it was time well spent: two of the stories I wrote and sent out during that period have found homes. On the other hand, it was often difficult to concentrate when the work slowdown (and a nonpaying deadbeat of a client) resulted in a tight financial situation. How many times did I wish for a working spouse, a steady paycheck, a trust fund, a winning lottery ticket–anything so that I could focus on the writing instead of the bank statements.

    And now that the work has picked up, the fiction writing has slowed down. It turns out that by the time I’ve spent a day writing for work, it’s a challenge to find the energy and brain cells to write anything else. I’m still writing, but my productivity has dropped significantly from those balmy summer months when I had the freedom to devote my time and attention to fiction.

    Any chance your lovely, supportive husband has a brother who’s looking for a writer to support?

  7. Betsy says:

    Feeling as if I have to choose between the pull of writing and the pull of my children, both are equal parts desire and obligation, is, it seems, my life’s struggle. I am infinitely curious about how women, especially mothers, manage to produce creative content, and nurture and fulfill family, and societal, obligations all at the same time. Thanks for sharing your story. Mine would read something like, “Woke up early to write, found the sink full of dishes and washed them while berating myself for not earning more money. Sat down to write, became obsessed with the way the late afternoon sun illuminated the dust and filth of my house, ended up vacuuming instead. Went to the family cabin to write, wondered longingly what fun things my husband and daughters were doing without me. The only writing I do these days, is that which I’m paid to do for a commercial blog. Money, it seems, is my only acceptable source of validation for taking the time to sit down and make something out of nothing. It’s about giving ourselves permission to write. Not always an easy thing to do. .

    • Danae says:

      What might help with balancing priorities is to create what I like to call a “guiding schedule” for the day. I find that if I have a definite time in my day to deal with dishes and cleaning and other obligations, then I can sit down for my designated hour or two and write or do other creative work guilt-free. I don’t have to worry that I will forget to fold the laundry or make dinner because I know that at 5 (or whatever works best for you), it will be time to stop writing and move on to those other things.

      The schedule doesn’t work for me every day. There are interruptions and crises. But having a template for how I’d like the day to go helps me plan better when such things come up. I know better what to put off until tomorrow to make room for today’s needs.

      I hope that’s helpful.

      • Duncan Ellis says:

        Thank you for that idea Danae – it’s certainly helpful to me, since I am thinking about how to write more of what I want to write and that kind of guiding schedule (or time striping, as I call it) is one of the things I am moving towards in my practice to keep me focussed on the right stuff.

  8. Kathy Crowley Kathy Crowley says:

    Ann —
    So true.
    Although I have no great literary achievements to attribute, I can tell you that being able to cut back on my – paying! – work schedule, following the death of my parents, has made it possible for me to get so much more writing done. It’s something I try never to take for granted and for which I am extremely grateful. In the years of working regular hours, especially regular doctor hours, I would come home exhausted and hardly in a creative frame of mind. (Robin’s story about her husband and the myth of endless energy especially resonates with me.)
    Thanks so much for writing this.

  9. Sonya Huber says:

    Thank you so much for writing this. This is a huge unspoken issue in the writing community, though I do have many women writer friends who acknowledge their privilege, and I ALWAYS appreciate it. It confirms to me how hard I have worked.
    I have never been “sponsored,” which is a great term. I have one child, and though I published a book while working full-time and getting through a difficult marriage that ended in divorce, my financial and life situation were stressful enough that I did not have time to “launch” the book properly. Try finding out about contests when you’re trying to raise a 4 year old as a single mom on the tenure track. :) I’ve always been the primary breadwinner for my son and myself, and am still that way now that I am remarried to a wonderful and supportive man. I didn’t travel and hardly did readings. I’ve never done a writer’s residency. I’ve since had 2 more books published with small presses, but all that activity takes its toll, and the constant work has affected my health in many ways. Thank you SO much for your honesty about the intersection of social class and art!

  10. Earl says:

    Thank you for your insights. My own wife strives to be a writer, and we have found it needful for me to do a lot more so she can have the attempt. I’m glad to see there are people out there that do succeed with this process. Seeing her dreams come true are important to me.

  11. Kim Triedman Kim Triedman says:

    Wonderful piece, Ann. Many thanks.

  12. Cheryl says:

    Hearing about your experience makes me feel better. I’ve been working on a novel for, um, over a decade now — but more often than not, I *haven’t* been working on it, because I’ve got some health issues and I’m working to support myself and trying to help my retired parents (who lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and have lived with me ever since). I’ve been thinking about how long it’s been since I started my novel and kind of beating myself up about it, feeling bad that I haven’t made it more of a priority. It’s nice to hear that there’s nothing wrong with me as a writer — that the people who are completing wonderful novels in their 20’s and 30’s are the ones who have gotten more breaks than I have and don’t have to worry about supporting themselves and their family.

  13. Judy Walters says:

    I love that people are also addressing another point: the connections. I have a friend who published her first book earlier this year…she had an agent, but the agent couldn’t sell it. She was very lucky that an author friend of high regard agreed to read the manuscript and then pass it along to her editor, who subsequently bought it. Now this friend of mine has worked incredibly hard for many years, so I’m not saying it was all so easy peasy, but I’m also saying there are many of us, who, for whatever reason, don’t have the time/personality/energy/ability to forge such connections and must rely on other routes to become published.

  14. Lisa Borders says:

    I really appreciate this post, Ann. I’ve written and erased three longer posts so I’ll leave it at that!

  15. Great piece … speaking as an illustrator freelancing for 29 years, I know what a loyal spouse can do. But also, please remember that many (or some) men writers/artists are just as involved in domestic and children’s chores as their wives. In short, it’s just as rough for family-oriented men to make it as women. I think family-oriented is the key word here, of course.

    The brutal realities of taking one’s art seriously operate on both sexes. In fact, as your article pointed out, it is only when men and women cooperate and give whole-heartedly to one another that art ever flourishes!

  16. Pam says:

    So. Freaking. Great. Thank you.

    The primary bread winner at our house? Me. We don’t have kids, which helps because we don’t have to insure them, but truthfully, it’s a struggle and stressful. I push creative work on to the back burner all the time because I have to earn a living.

    I had the option to be the creative stay at home, but we’d have had to live in the husband’s home country, and I was viciously homesick there. So we came back to the US, understanding that I’d have to be the primary earner.

    It’s a choice I accept because my daily life is happier. And I make good money as a technical freelancer when I’m working. But I bungee in and out of my creative work, ever losing momentum and focus. And I got slammed with dental bills this year, big ones (no insurance) and the stress of that… hoo boy.

    Retirement remains a puzzle, and as a friend of mine recently said, we live “one bad decision away from poverty.” That’s dramatic, but also, the heart of that remark is true. For me, the creative stuff is always second because keeping a roof over our head is first. We do okay at it, and I know that had we decided to live abroad and taken the patron spouse offer, the role creative work plays in my life would be much bigger. But I also know I’d be depressed, and I’d rather be a thwarted writer than a sad puddle.

    I do it by juggling. A lot. And I’m bad at it, and my creative work languishes, frequently.

    Again, thank you so much for this.

    • Anne Nicolai says:

      Ann, this is refreshing. The last time I heard someone honestly give thanks for their lucky break was in the 1980s when a fellow writer came to pick me up at my cardboard box of an apartment in her bright red Porsche 911, and brought me to her mansion on East Lake of the Isles Parkway for lunch. She said, “Isn’t this fun? I make no money as a writer, but I have a rich husband, so I get to share all this with my friends!” Then she opened a bottle of champagne. I’m sure I enjoyed the bubbly–and her company–twice as much as if she’d been coy about how she got such a cushy life.

  17. Nova, I remember when I did a post for you about my own divorce from someone suffering from mental illness and how writing became my solace while I worked two jobs trying to keep my head above water. I see so much of my own story in this post, and I applaud you for being open about the financial realities of publishing.

    And congratulations on finding such a wonderful partner the second time around. I recently did the same. :-)

  18. Joe W says:

    What an insightful post.

    In my early years as a magazine writer, I managed to make enough to pay for my half the rent of our tiny apartment. BUT my wife’s full-time job as an editor paid our health benefits. AND, because my parents were well off, I always knew (always!) that we weren’t going to be out on the street if I had a bad month, or a bad year.

    Even if I didn’t have to ask them for a loan, just knowing I could, and they’d oblige, set me apart from so many other writers. Regardless of my obsession to write, I doubt I would have had the nerve to pursue that career if I hadn’t known I had that safety net.

    And, unlike those writers you reference, I’m actually honest about this good fortune when I describe my career to my own writing students.

  19. Kate Whouley says:

    Thanks for your insightful and honest piece on the wizardry behind the writer’s curtain. And congratulations on finding and loving your own wizard to support your work. The well-publicized stories of big advances create a mythology that authors are highly paid. Someone hears “book contract,” and sees dollar signs. In fact, most big contracts are signed by celebrities or writers who have already arrived–by hook or crook or luck or privilege or just great timing. The rest of us must find–and fund–the time to write between the gigs that pay our bills. We want to believe that excellent writing will be well-published, well-reviewed, and well-paid, but there are no such guarantees, and plenty of examples we could cite where that is not at all the case. I have no wizard–no husband, no family money, no Ivy or MFA, no paid time off. The only magical power I have is the capacity to write, and the willingness–or willfulness–to keep doing it. Thanks again for the post.

  20. Lori P says:

    Hear Hear to Honesty. Thank you! And much applause, hugs, and kisses to the partners who allow us to duck out of office hours to pursue a dream. I’m grateful beyond words.

  21. Mandy says:

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I needed to read this today. I’m a single mom of two working a full time job while trying to piece together freelance gigs to make up for the decidedly low child support I receive from my ex who is “finding himself”.

    I’m tired. All the time. Yet, I write. I write at ten at night for a half hour. I write on weekends between loads of laundry and making dinners for the week. I write in fifteen minute spurts on my lunch break.

    I’ve had short stories published in indie publications, but I haven’t been able to find the time/energy/ability to establish connections in the publishing world, a world that seems as distant and cut off as the moon.

    Everyone I read, everyone I listen to, everyone I follow makes it seem like they wrote a book, after working very, very hard, and it was such a gold nugget of amazingness they had people pounding on their doors to publish it. It’s nice to hear the truth.

  22. Joanne says:

    The dedication in my latest novel is to me husband, “who puts bread on the table so that I can write”.
    I do work part-time and contribute by doing most of the childbearing, cooking, shopping, etc., but my cold hard cash contribution from writing, so far, is negligible.

  23. Because my husband’s chosen career paid so much better than mine, we agreed that I’d stay home with the kids. This caused me to feel like a child myself for many years because wasn’t pulling my weight financially. Then I worked on my guilt and realized how lucky I am to be the poor, creative one in the family. Now I refer to him as my Patron of the Arts.

  24. K. Lyn Wurth says:

    Kudos for your honest, well-written tribute to the people who partner with us writers in our daily survival and labors of love. None of us survives or thrives alone. Those who do manage to succeed as writers without a sponsor of sorts mystify, humble and amaze me. The last thing I’d ever want to do is pretend that my writing progress has been a solo act… before and without my husband, I worked at writing for decades and held other jobs, but with his support I’ve extended my work into publication. I try to give back by doing reviews and favors for writers I know who have a tougher time than I do. It’s something we all can do, paying our good fortune forward, and it feels good to see others succeed.

  25. Brilliant. Gutsy and brilliant.
    Thank you for bringing these 2 often intertwined issues into the light: privilege and connections.

    As a playwright I pieced together commissions to cobble together making a living until I couldn’t face another January not knowing where the first penny of my income was coming from. And landed a part time teaching gig. The perfect job for a working writer. My income as a teacher allows me to contribute to my family, but my husband has always carried the lion’s share of that responsibility on his shoulders.
    He is a patron of the arts and I could not be more grateful.
    At the same time, I hunger mightily to contribute more financially.

  26. Gaie Sebold says:

    Oh yeah. I wrote my first novels while working full time – but, I don’t have children, and much of that time was single, so really only had myself to please (or to blame when I was constantly short of sleep because I got up early to get writing time in before work). If I hadn’t had parents who left me enough to pay off my mortgage and rent out, and didn’t have a generous and loving partner with a reasonable income, I wouldn’t now be trying my hand at writing full time, because I simply could not afford it.
    Not enough people talk about this. Not enough people realise that making a full time living from writing – especially fiction – is the exception, not the rule. (Oh and I didn’t get a novel published until I was in my late 40’s. Short stories and poetry, yes – but those pay even less!)

  27. Great, honest article Ann. Here’s mine: I have a full time job in London and a three-hour round trip every day to get to and from work. I can’t write on the train – too crowded and I don’t always get a seat. So what I do do is get up at 5:30am at least twice a week and catch an early train into work. I sit in Starbucks round the corner from work with my NetBook from 7:30am for a good hour, and I write. Most of my fellow commuters are still in bed at that time. But I get quite a lot done in that hour.

    Sometimes I envy those that are able to write full time, but ultimately the decision to juggle writing around the day job is mine, and Hubby and I would not be able to afford the lifestyle we have if we didn’t both have good well paying jobs.

    So I choose to sacrifice sleep instead, in order to juggle both. I don’t have kids, but that’s another choice I consciously made.


  28. […] the second article looks at the financial realities for writers and how we talk about these financial realities. Bauer says that we can’t pretend that having […]

  29. thomas cappiello says:

    I am far from a writer, but dabble here and there and would love to have solid time to do some writing projects I have in my head. The last thing I want to do at the end of a 7.5 hr day behind the comptuer at my office, is get behind the computer at home for any amount of time. I thoroughly admire those of you with famlies, dogs, cats, jobs etc that have wherewithall and time management talent, to get’er done, even if byte by byte. For those of you who have the “privelege” I salute you too,, and glad that you can be open about it. I often wonder how the heck some people seem to have all the time and maybe financial support to do what they do, I often ‘suspect’ or want to suspect a “trust” or sugar-something in the background, to alleviate my feelings of not putting in enough to accomplish my goals.

    • Joanne says:

      This is why the lies and half-truths are so pernicious! They make writers feel inadequate and flawed in you don’t have so much passion that you’re able to “open a vein and bleed” at 10pm after the kids are asleep, the paying work AND the dishes done, and you’re ready to collapse with exhaustion.

  30. Ann Bauer Ann Bauer says:

    To everyone who commented—

    I cannot thank you enough for participating in an honest and enlightening conversation. This is, I think, a different sort of literary citizenship — telling each other the truth. Bravo.


    • N.M. Kelby says:

      For the past 18 years, I have written novels for a living. I travel the world on book tours. I teach as a writer in residence when asked. I’m the child of immigrant parents and grew up in a Polish neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio. My husband works part-time for In The Heart of the Beast theater.

      We live on what I make a novelist.

      In THE CONSTANT ART OF BEING A WRITER, I advise other writers not to give up their day job…it is very good advice, indeed. It’s difficult to sleep at night when all you do is write novels for a living. The grants you receive, you need for research. Your health insurance is half of your house payment. You live with the fear that you’ll be homeless. You forget birthdays and Christmas, because a manuscript must be edited with a tight turn around. Vacations are not for people like you.

      And yet, you write. You write through the panic attacks, and through the fear. You write because you are breathing. And, if you are breathing, you should be writing.

      It’s not a glamorous life. It’s just life.

  31. My teachers lauded my writing all through high school. I married and became pregnant at age 20, and widowed the same year. The next 20 were filled with sometimes desperate attempts to keep my daughter’s and my head above water. At the age of 44, I started writing for the company I worked for, discovered I had an ability, and wrote part-time for the next two years. I loved writing fiction, but it was non-fiction I was getting paid for; with more courage than sense, I left my paying job and tried freelancing. Life was thin at first, but several non-fiction books followed. I attempted two novels, neither of which was good enough for publication (in my opinion). The third one was: “Shaketown”, my historical novel about a San Francisco madam has been selling slowly but steadily as an eBook since February 2013, and will be out in paper in 2014. Will I ever be rich? Doubtful–but writing is still something that brings me joy.

  32. Stay-at-home mom with a bread-winning partner. One novel published–but the third one I’ve written. Four short stories published and one more novel on the way soon. None making much money. I do work hard and I can’t write all day with two kids to homeschool and a house to keep but I’m better off than my peers with non-writing, at-the-office day jobs they need to pay their bills.

    And I fully appreciate it!

  33. Great piece! So true. But for me, I think I might not have worked so hard if I came from a well-off family or married someone well-off. My husband and I got married when I was 23, and he read some of my fiction and told me I needed to be a writer. At first I held some other jobs, but eventually, even though he honestly couldn’t support our family on his salary because he’d started over in a new industry (he’d been in the Army and could only find work at a crappy starting level job at a horrible soul-killing finance company), I stopped working (got laid off actually when I was 8.5 months pregnant) and did freelance writing and worked on fiction. I felt like I was writing for my life and for my kids’ lives, and felt like an awful failure when we couldn’t provide them with the middle class things we’d had as kids (lessons, sports, a permanent home, vacations, etc). But my husband told me that he didn’t want me to become a cubicle drone like him, that he thought it’d kill me, and he had faith that my overall income from writing would be higher than what I’d make at an office (and paying childcare) so we limped along. I think that took about 7 years, until I sold my first book– which wasn’t sold at auction for six figures like I *totally* thought would happen (which also made me feel like a terrible failure, though it shouldn’t have, really). The book didn’t do much until it went into paperback, which was not until 2011– so in total, 10 years after I began, my work started paying off a little. Honestly, in retrospect, I would never tell anyone to not work while they wrote, I’d tell them to get an okay job and write a few pages a day because it was so hard and depressing and required some pills and therapy to get through (made possible by my husband’s insurance– see, there’s that support). And I’d tell people to have that job so they could afford to go to writing conferences and workshops or maybe get an MFA or buy some darn books to read, none of which I also could not fathom doing. In the meantime my husband worked like hell and got promoted and then got laid off and that safety net was never there b/c I wasn’t working regularly. My editor remarked I did some of my best work when things were in complete upheaval (not that I want that to happen ever again! Yikes! ) It’s only really been this year that we can we afford to give our kids these things and now would be okay without my income, which is a huge burden off me– any income I get is now*almost* extra rather than absolutely required. (it is still nerve-wracking to wait for a check and not know how much it’ll be or when exactly it’ll show up during the month it’s supposed to). Overall, mentally I do feel a LOT better and less stressed. Hmmm. Okay, in conclusion I agree it’d be better to have that security from the get-go! I should’ve been a better gold-digger! I swear;)

  34. […] Ann Bauer speaks openly and frankly about how to survive as a writer. (Hint: it helps to have money.) […]

  35. Connie Crow says:

    Excellent reveal! I too, have always had wonderful support from the man I love. I had my own business career for nearly 30 years, when I decided I wanted to write a book of fiction. I had been a commercial business writer most of my adult life, but trust me, it’s not the same. Hubby, bless is heart, is always there and said “Go for it!” My first book was published the year I took an early retirement. I was 52. I had a guaranteed income and a working spouse. I could do whatever I wanted (no children) and Hubby would bring me cocoa, rub my neck, whatever. Amazingly he thinks I’m pretty near perfect. ( I have him fooled, yet). He finds me story lines and convinces people to read my books. 17 years later he’s still my best PR person. We both retired now, so we travel- he fishes and I write. My latest book comes out in January of 2014. It would never have happened without his love and support. I’m very blessed.

  36. Duncan Ellis says:

    Thank you for this candid insight.

    As it happens, I wrote a blog post just yesterday about why I don’t write full time, and a great deal of it is to do with being the primary income for my family. I am lucky in that I have a well-paid job, but jumping from an established career into one where I would not be able to match the income from the job I have now for some time (if ever – as far as I can tell even many successful SF authors make less than I do) is untenable.

    Unless I am, again, very very lucky.

    Anyway, the blog post is here:

    Thank you again for starting this conversation.

  37. Therese says:

    This is also true for small business owners. My husband is a freelancer in a writing-related trade. He wouldn’t be, if I didn’t have the unusual opportunity to support a family of three on a single income.

  38. I have three kids. I wouldn’t be the writer that I am without them.

    We struggle financially, yes, and for sure the stress of figuring out how to pay the mortgage and how to save for college and how neither is happening very well absolutely drains the work time. But it makes it better too. I’m a full person in the world, and I can bring that to the page. I’m a person who worries and loves and balances and perseveres. And that makes it to the page as well. Is it slower with kids and balancing on the razor’s edge between middle-class-dom and poverty? Yes. For sure. But it’s not a deal-breaker by any means.

  39. Yep. My husband is an eye surgeon. I’m proud that I make enough via writing to actually live on, but if I did live on my income I certainly wouldn’t be living my current life. It’s an amazing luxury to be able to work as I want to while also taking time to be with my children, to have hobbies, to travel–he makes it possible. But I try to be honest when people ask.

  40. Cheryl Reed says:


    We had this conversation last year when you were in Chicago. It has been a career-long struggle for me to find the day job that allows me to write. The problem I have with being entirely supported by a husband is that it’s not a sustainable method.

    As a feminist, I strongly believe that a woman should have be able to support herself. I’ve always had some sort of job, some that paid extremely well and others not so well —like now adjunct teaching— but I feel that writing in itself is not a job. It’s a vocation and one that we must pursue but not at the expense of being able to contribute or support ourselves.

    Currently I’m dependent on my husband because adjunct teaching doesn’t pay well. But this is a temporary situation. I’m applying and getting interviews for tenure-track jobs. If I am not able to land a TT within say three years, I plan to return to some sort of PR, journalism job that will pay. The problem with most of those jobs is that they are mentally all-consuming. The reason I have opted to try my hand at teaching is that it does allow some flexibility in one’s schedule, although at the expense of offering a low salary in return.

    I have real trouble not working at all. Writing does not consume eight hours of day for most writers (even the prolific ones). And the idea that I would be dependent on my husband for the rest of my life is not something I could stomach. I hate to be the naysayer in all this, but isn’t that what a real discussion is about?

    • Ann Bauer Ann Bauer says:


      So many excellent sub-topics have come out of this discussion. Gender equity, domestic versus “gritty” writing, the politics of feminism. One thing my husband objected to was that I downplayed my own earnings in the piece I wrote. The fact is, I do contribute to our income but I do it in a high-risk (writing) role. Some months I make a great deal of money….other months, I barely make any. The point is, I don’t have to worry. If my books don’t sell or my consulting clients are slow to pay, I have someone bringing in a steady paycheck plus benefits. It’s the steadiness and certainty of this that makes my life easy. I take risks with impunity, whereas ten years ago I’d err on the side of a sure but low-paying thing.

      Yet another thing this thread brings up is the drive to pay writers less and less. We earn less for journalism, less for teaching, less for books than we did 10 years ago. It’s a trap that’s making many of us rely on spouses or other sources of income. Personally, I’ve decided not to “volunteer” my writing/teaching time unless it’s with an organization I love and derive rich personal benefits from —-prime example: Beyond the Margins.


      • Cheryl Reed says:


        Your husband is right: you do underplay your own contributions. And, yes, freelance writing and adjunct teaching pay crap. I guess that’s why I never considered those life-long side jobs. That is why I’ve been in search of a job that allows me to write 15-20 hours on the side. I worry too much about my retirement and health care and what happens when my husband gets laid off from the newspaper industry. I’ve been married going on 17 years, and we have a wonderful marriage, but one reason we have had a good marriage, I believe, is that we have both contributed. I never want to feel beholden to him. As a child of divorce, I always want to feel that I can make it on my own if I have to. That’s me. As a former journalist, I’ve covered more than my share of women who have been jilted and struggled after having been out of the workforce for so long. I also never want to depend on my literary writing for financial support. The industry is just too mercurial. That said, I always think the best books come from writers who have lived a little —and yes, struggled a little. They know what real life is about.

        So as your friend, I’ll say sink that side money into a retirement fund…

        • Katy Read says:

          Hi Ann and Cheryl,

          As someone who has both made the exact same income as her then-husband in essentially the same decent-paying job (we were staff writers at the Times-Picayune), as well as been financially dependent on then-husband while working on literary writing, I can say that the latter put me in huge financial peril. For me, the wisdom of being self-supporting goes beyond feminism; it’s about basic survival.

          On the other hand, if I’d stayed at my newspaper job I’m certain I would never have done the literary writing, and my life would be poorer for it. And there’s a good chance that I’d be out of a job now, since the Times-Picayune laid off about half its staff a year ago. I’d be unemployed, lacking either literary or freelance connections, and job-hunting in a shrinking industry. (I’d have more savings, though.)

          I’m sure there are super-human people out there who could combine a full-time job, two challenging kids and literary writing. But realistically I know I would not be one of them. I’d have to give up at least one of those things.


          • Cheryl Reed says:


            I agree with you and Ann and others on this list that telling someone with a full-time that they can write books and produce is BS. When I first started the book I’m currently working on —nine years ago— I went to four days a week at my newspaper job, then three days. I took it seriously and was willing to take home less money. Other people were like why can’t you just write in the morning? It doesn’t work like that. (And most books written that way strike me as plodding and pedestrian.) It has taken me so long, because well when I worked full-time for four years to pay for my expensive MFA, well I could only write maybe five hours a week.
            I think the answer is as individual as the problem. But I don’t envy people who don’t have to work. Frankly, when the novel is going badly, I am grateful that there is at least one thing I’m actually good at…


  41. Juliann Rich says:

    Hi Kelly,
    Beautiful and so very true. I didn’t write with any focus or direction until I was 45 and it was my husband who bought me the first gift certificate to the Loft with the note that said, “Just do it, dammit.”
    We are not wealthy by any standard, but his income makes it possible for me to pursue this field. One of the blessings of the struggle though is the clarity it gives me. I ask any luxury that tempts me, “Do I want you more than I want the freedom to write?” So far that answer has never been yes.
    To the point about needing to choose between making babies and making art, my truth is that without my child I would not have become a writer. Every book I write, I write for him and he is my truest inspiration.

  42. Kurt says:

    A refreshingly honest article, I must say. I’m one of the lonely and isolated, and working full-time in the construction industry (i.e., riffraff). I’ve had success in publishing poems and short stories, and had an agent for a while, as well (first book didn’t sell, unfortunately), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little disadvantaged compared to those who have more time and energy to devote to their creative enterprises.

  43. Beatriz says:

    I made $140 this year publishing poems-and if truth be told, probably spent more than that on contest fees and subscriptions! Part-time work and a steady earning spouse
    who fortunately loves his work is why I am able to find time
    to write poetry. I feel very fortunate!

  44. Thank you so much for writing this. I am one of those authors right now who is living paycheck to paycheck as my first book didn’t isn’t doing so well despite having a legendary editor, an agent, media coverage early on. The reviews coming in are fine but yeah, I’m out of the matrix. Given your background, I’m happy that you are in a better place. Keep writing – I’ll try to do the same.

  45. Lydia says:

    Someone tweeted your wonderful article alongside a piece that I just wrote:

    That’s my contribution to the dialogue. :) Thank you so much for writing yours.

  46. writerdude says:

    i love this article, thank you for sharing. but at the same time, what about the writer dudes? who if they want to support themselves and have a wife or a family, and be a professional in some field or in retail to get by, and then still be a writer . . . or take the time to develop as a writer . . . i think the dudes have it a bit rough as well, unless they’re of privileged ilk . . . and these are the reasons the publishing industry is seen as something a little too precious (by myself, maybe others?) for its own good, run by many many woman with mucho mucho time on their hands . . . and strange bowl haircuts that hang around their faces

    • Ann Bauer Ann Bauer says:

      Thank you for this comment, writerdude. I’m really glad you wrote in; plus, I love the way you use language (always a good sign). But I have to ask: Why assume that because I’m a female author married to a man who works in a 9-5 job that this is about gender? That’s a real question (and you’re not the first to make the assumption). I’d like to think — and maybe I’m naive — that traditional roles have little to do with this. I’m a writer and he’s a software engineer. But if he were a writer and I were a software engineer, might we not have this same deal in reverse?

      • writerdude says:

        Touché‎ . . . but can’t a dude just complain out loud because he’s never come across a female software engineer who solves every problem in his life

        • Torrey Podmajersky says:

          I work in software and support my husband’s small art business ( Because I do this, he is able to make the things only he can make, and more art enters the world. I also truly love my work, though when it gets busy, I have less time and energy for my own art–writing spec fic short stories and novels, among other things.

          The gendered part of the equation is one of the most difficult aspects; we often joke that I’m the most sexist member of the household, because I feel like I should keep the house cleaner or do the dishes or other “women’s work.” He laughs and reminds me that we both have roles in the household, in our relationship, and in our work–and he makes sure that what energy I keep separate from work, I can spend on the most important things.

          I’ve been at the scraping-by edge of income, but I’ve always had the privilege to have a family safety-net–if it ever got too bad, I’d be OK. While I was a teacher, I wrote my first published novel. But worries that used to tap my resources dry have fallen away. At the moment, with a comfortable income, a solid home, and great health care, my husband and I have enough security to take bigger, bolder creative risks.

          • DJ says:

            Forgive my reply if it’s a bit rambling, Im under the weather with flu so my head feels like cotton wool. The subject of Arts Patronage has been a topic of conversation with me lately as I don’t see the traditional role of Patron being fulfilled by the upper eschelons as it used to be. With specific reference to Artists – as painters – but definitely including Writers as Artists. For my own part as a male in a traditional minded area of a christian conservative country, I was raised to believe that the chances of my finding a wife who would be supportive of my Art was so not only inconceivable it was morally wrong as it would be the ultimate selfishness. So after I completed my Bachelor in Fine Arts the career path was dropped and I turned to web design – ostensibly to afford me a career with some creative input and the ability to travel. My heart has never been happy though, and knowing how all-consuming my art can become I have chosen to simply walk away from it while pursuing the ‘create a stable life’ foundation of income so that I can support myself later in life to pursue my art. The fact that you support your husband in his passion and share in it and do so willingly flies in the face of everything I have believed up til now. I applaud you in every way possible!

  47. Hear, hear. Reading between the lines of author bios, I often speculate on whether certain privileges helped them gather the time, money, or connections to find success as a writer. I come from a fairly privileged, but completely unartistic, background. I’m the primary wage earner for my partner and myself. I’ve set up my life to allow a fair amount of time for writing, but I’ll never be the “stay at home wife/author.”

  48. Percy Kerry (@percykerry) says:

    Liked this piece. I have two primary loves in my life- research in the fields of my liking, and writing. And the best thing is both of my passions supplement each other. But when it comes to choice of a vocation- well, a paid, steady job of a researcher is my way to go. I hope to earn some money on the side with my writing too…but that will always be an avocation. My bread-and-butter will always come from being a pharmaceutical researcher in some lab- which, like I said, is a job I am very passionate about. And the author is right about the things with money which ain’t your own, and connections. I don’t have either of these, and never will rely on them. I’ll earn my own money and supplement my writing- on the time I get to write. That’s the way it will all have to work out for me :-)

  49. Tom Hitt says:


    Here’s mine. I became a happier, more selfless person when I made the decision to stop comparing my life to others. I’m learning to write bravely because of this change in perspective. The world didn’t change, I did.

    Thanks for the perspective piece, enjoyed it. ~TH~

  50. […] Spicer posted an article on my Facebook page earlier this week; the author encourages her fellow writers to “come […]

  51. I’m not in your league. I’m an artist turned blogger. So I consider myself a story teller. But, I was fascinated by your post and the truth behind it. I think people are afraid to tell the truth of their lives. No matter what it entails. Really enjoyed yours.

  52. Jane Roper says:

    I have 7 year old twins, one of whom has a life-threatening illness, and earn ¾ of our household income with an almost full-time day job.

    I pine endless (it seemed) writing time I had before I had children, even while working.

    Thank you for this.

  53. […] author of Wild Thing In Our Known World, posted an article from another writer on the role of privilege and connections in the struggle to be […]

  54. Jen Anderson says:

    Thank you so much for including medical issues as one of the things holding us back. My migraines have held me back from so much – including finishing my novel in time to capitalize on an essay I sold to the NY Times. In 2008. The novel still isn’t finished.

  55. […] If you read nothing else in this post, read this: on writers, money and lies. […]

  56. Very well put. I taught screenwriting at the UCLA Film School for 10 years. When young screenwriters ask what is the most important key to success as a writer I always respond: “Marry well.” A stable second income makes all the difference. It’s just a fact.

  57. Aine Greaney says:

    What a wonderful post, Ann. And you’re right: It needs to get said. I also despise it when apparently “lucky” writers don’t disclose their family or financial connections that have clearly fast-forwarded them into the big splash. It doesn’t diminish that author’s work, but I appreciate when they’re at least honest about it.

    I have tried all kinds of arrangements, and each, at various times in my writing life, have either worked, sorta worked or really bombed.

    Currently, I work a 3/4 time job in non-profit communications. I’m well paid and it finances my creative writing, which, like most people here, earns me almost zero money. My husband and I don’t have children, and have tried all kinds of financial combos to make the writing (and the marital power balance which to me is also very important) work. I found that trying to combine a freelance (paying) career with a creative writing (non or barely paying) life worked out badly for me. Big mid-life lesson about myself: I couldn’t live with the financial ups and downs and anxiety. In fact, even though it bought me lots of time, the freelancer’s financial hee-bee-jeebies eclipsed my creativity in just about everything. Working full-time (gig before last) actually worked o.k. My most writing-UNfriendly gig? University teaching (part time). I found that I was constantly just reading and grading other people’s narratives, not my own. It also paid so horribly that it achieved neither the financial nor the creative goal. Sometimes I feel intense resentment at having to leave a project to go to work (4 days/week). But I find the best antidote to this is setting the alarm extra early to get in a half hour’s work or journaling before it’s time to shower and find a pair of matching shoes.

    • Ann Bauer Ann Bauer says:


      Like you, I quit teaching (adjunct) for universities because the pay was ridiculous, the commitment was intense, and it filled my head with other people’s words and stories—leaving less room for my own. I think this is one of the traps that a lot of writers fall into: teaching for subsistence wages instead of attending to their own work. I am much happier since leaving academe for the private sector. My work there is valued, both in terms of respect and in terms of compensation.


  58. […] The Conversation We Never Have A fascinating and important article on writers with privilege. […]

  59. Sophie says:

    Dear Ann,

    I agree and disagree with you. Judging by some of the replies here, a lot of people seem to suspect that great writers have some secret advantage: money and/or connections. I disagree with that. The biggest challenge is still just writing the damn book. It may take you twenty years, or fifty years, but if you really want to write, you’ll ultimately do it. If you don’t really want to write, no amount of money and spare time will help.

    On the other hand, poverty and illness are soul-destroying, there’s no doubt about that. I wrote my first two novels while working full-time. No literary connections, no MFA, not even a degree in literature. But I was healthy and had a partner who believed in me, and that, I agree, is a huge blessing. Like Cheryl, I don’t believe it’s fair to expect him to fund my writing, which is why I still work part-time. However, just having someone who enjoys reading your work and encourages you to persevere in the face of adversity is a great, great gift.

    Thank you for starting such an important debate.


  60. […] Bauer has written a smart, thoughtful essay about writing and being honest about privilege at Beyond the Margins. Highly […]

  61. […] Bauer has started “the conversation we never have,” about the roles of money and connections (and lack thereof) in writers’ lives. Be sure to […]

  62. Truth Shall Set Thee Free says:

    And how about the privileges of being born in the country where the koiné of the world (but not for too much longer) — English is spoken as the only language. That just gives you an advantage in using slang and shoddy metaphors, doesn’t it? All the while Italians, Russians, Saidesque Orientals (including the likes of Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak) meanwhile have to consider whether to change names to land the editor’s job easier.

    Ah well…

  63. I appreciated this article so much, especially at this time of year when I’m thinking back over the past year’s publishing hits and misses and how absolutely lucky I am to have a spouse who is my biggest cheerleader (and also has a steady job and paycheck). I quit a teaching gig when I had my second child, and although time to write is difficult to find, I’ve had more stories/essays/poems published this year than in any other and have finished a novel. Having the kids and quitting the job gave me a chance to reinvent myself and truly focus on the writing I love, and I know few people have that chance. I am grateful for it every day.

  64. Victoria says:

    What a brilliant piece. I’m new in the blogging world but am more interested in acacdemics – in the long run.
    I live in Germany and commute to England every six weeks while working on my Masters with the hope of getting into a Phd. I’m also a corporate trainer but quite frankly, without the help and support of my husband, I’d hardly be able to leave our one and only child, to gallivate in England.

    At my pleasure. So yes, sometimes it’s who you know.

  65. Great post. Brought back memories of struggle. Bio on my website gives the short version quite accurately, but not the reality of trying to write as a single parent while also making a living. Guess what! First book published at 70 in 2007 (collection of short stories). Novel in 2010. Another novel coming out this fall. Delivered a mystery to agent a month ago. Working on a memoir. Only husband thought I was competing with him, although he was in a profession and not a writer. Fifties marriage. Tillie Olsen’s Silences captures it. Tough as it was, I feel fortunate to have lived long enough to experience the rewards (unfortunately not financial) of seeing my books published.

  66. Mike says:

    From all the husbands and lovers.
    It is nice to be recognized.
    My wife may never be famous or rich, but; she loves to create.
    It is my honor to enable her.
    Please keep writing.

    • SM Johnson says:

      (What a lovely comment, just above mine, from Mike).

      I work 12-hour shifts 10 days a month at a hospital. The days I work are work/sleep/work/sleep. Sometimes I am able to write at work (with pen and paper), sometimes not.

      This is what my days off look like: On my days off, my husband and I get up at 7 and have coffee, talk about what we expect from today. Our daughter gets up at 7:30 and I drive her to school at 8, while my husband gets ready for work. I give myself until 10 to push laundry, make phone calls, do housecleaning.

      From 10 am to 2 pm I do my best to keep my butt in my chair, avoid social media, and write or edit. Pick up my daughter at 3, take her to karate, do social media stuff from my phone on the fly…. and go go go go until 9 pm. Then social media. After 10 pm I socialize online or via phone with writer friends.

      My job provides my family with health insurance, pays a couple of bills, supports my book-buying addiction, and forces me to interact with with the world (a very good and necessary thing, as I tend to be somewhat antisocial).

      But like the author of this article, I am a sponsored writer, in that my husband earns the bulk of the household income. Every employment decision I make, is made with an eye for allowing me more writing time. I am lucky – I can write what I want without worrying about making a living. My current goal is to sell one book per day per month. One sale a day between six novels and three short stories. I hit that goal almost every month. So I am lucky AND content. And very, very grateful.

  67. […] Partners as patrons “I am essentially “sponsored” by this very loving man who shows up at the end of the day, asks me how the writing went, pours me a glass of wine, then takes me out to eat. He accompanies me when I travel 500 miles to do a 75-minute reading, manages my finances, and never complains that my dark, heady little books have resulted in low advances and rather modest sales.” […]

  68. Anne M Bray says:

    Oh gosh, wonderful post.
    It’s the fact that you went through all the hardship that you can appreciate the support that you now receive.

    My boyfriend paid my rent when I went through eight months of not working due to cancer treatments (I’m fine, btw). I cannot thank him enough. I also coerce him into paying for flights when I join him on gigs. He’s a keeper!

    I encounter the noblesse oblige attitude at my art gallery. It is a co-op, co-owned by 40 artists. That means we share in all the business costs: rent, director’s salary, advertising, etc, etc. Many of them are older women, now either retired or supported by their husbands, having a second career as artists now that their children are older and don’t need as much supervision. Not all, but many have no clue what it’s like to live paycheck to paycheck (as I do — heck, I’m beyond that to living off credit card checks — a financial adviser would strangle me).
    Sure there was a period when I had a full-time, well-paying job. Zero art made and miserable. My financial risks are exponentially outweighed by my creative satisfaction.

    Does my art make me money? No, not yet.

    Full disclosure: I have a small trust fund stock portfolio set up by my dad that I use for dire emergencies. It’s a small cushion in dollars, but huge for creative bravery.

  69. Maddie says:

    Thank you for this honesty.

    Ok, so my turn. I’m 24 years old, currently living in Washington, DC, and I’m an actress – or at least I try to be. I know this article was written about living and working as a writer, but boy can I relate. Connections and financial support seem to be everything, but luckily, they’re not always. We don’t live in a meritocracy, but I do believe that truth rises to the surface (like this article!).

    My solution: for the times when I’m unemployed as an actress, I go for low paying, low stress jobs (where I can maybe do research in my field or read plays). I save as much as I can and live simply. Extremely simply. I choose to believe that my future will be bright and I look for examples of women who have made it who were like me. Maybe I sound foolish, but I just love what I do. And I am eternally grateful for the people who have supported and pushed me along the way.

    This article is so brilliant and helpful. Thank you.

  70. Celeste says:

    Amazingly powerful piece of work. Thank you for sharing what is rarely discussed.

  71. Shila says:

    The upshot: Writing, like other creative pursuits, is in danger of becoming the domain of the haves. How dangerous is that. and what are we doing to address this disturbing trend?

  72. […] che è stato provocato dall’articolo di Ann Bauer su Beyond the Margins. L’articolo lo trovate qui, e vi consiglio di leggerlo. Fatto? […]

  73. […] “In this world where women will sit around discussing the various topiary shapes of their bikini waxe…” – Beyond the Margins […]

  74. becky says:

    A greatpost and so important to acknowledge our priveleges (or share how we cram it in and cope with little cash) #tuesday treats

  75. […] Interesting, especially as someone working on figuring out what to do with life: […]

  76. Maria says:

    Oh how many emancipated women, having hard times writing in the back of their husbands. i am not surprisd that they cant live from their writing. the quality is related to effort, physical or mental, doesn’t matter.

  77. TK Carter says:

    I stand and applaud you, Ann Bauer. I try not to compare my career to those around me who are further along and more established, but at times, I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing wrong.

    Perhaps the perspective should be, “Look at all YOU ARE doing.”

    I work full-time in a career that provides for my children and me. (I’m divorced 5+ years, now.) I come home from work, fix supper, spend some time with the kiddos and make a lame attempt at household cleanliness before I disappear into my office (around 9 pm) to crank out as many words as possible before the fatigue of the day overtakes me. I’ve written and published three novels in five years, and I still feel I’m lacking because I cannot crank out four novels a year and maintain my mandatory life already in progress.

    But, I have to keep reminding myself that I am still living my dream. I am writing, and thousands of people are reading (and loving) my work. I’m raising my children and paying my bills. Giving up on being an author is completely out of the question. It’s so engrained in me, now, I could never not write. Other people may scoff at the low royalty checks I receive from Amazon at times, but I still become that giddy school girl when I see that I’m still being paid, that someone is still purchasing my work. I may be slow out of the gate, but by golly, I’m in the race.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  78. Thanks Ann, for sharing your experience with the rest of us. Your honesty touched me. I struggle with this issue and haven’t found anybody to discuss it with, partly because I am a bit isolated, partly because of a health condition. I am one of those priviledged ones with a spouse with a steady income and lots of perks. By principle and for the sake of sanity, I have to keep myself employed. It was only until recently, when my life got much easier, that I was able to dedicate several hours a day to work without interruptions on my writing. Often I feel embarrassed in front of professional women, or those who support their families on their own, because I am not able to do the same. I have always believed that a woman should earn her own money. However, I am completely dependant on my husband at this point in my life. It helps to know that others have a more philosophical approach to this conondrum.

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Ann Bauer

Ann Bauer
Ann Bauer is the author of two novels, A Wild Ride Up the Cupboards and The Forever Marriage, and co-author of the culinary memoir Damn Good Food. Her essays have appeared in River Teeth, The Fourth Genre, The Sun, Redbook, Ladies Home Journal, The New York Times, ELLE and Salon. She has been shortlisted for the Pushcart prize and Best American Essays and named a notable nonfictionist by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Ann earned her MFA at the University of Iowa and has taught creative writing at Macalester College and Brown University. Today she and her husband split their time between Boston and Minneapolis, which is home base for their three grown children. Read Full