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Music, art, acting, writing. These are activities many people undertake for fun, and only a very small percentage of those ever have an opportunity to make enough money to call it a full-time gig. Outside the creative world, jobs like "day care teacher" or "book store clerk" appeal to so many young people that businesses get away with paying the lowest possible wage, yet jobs almost never open up, and when they do there's no shortage of applicants.

I read an article this morning about aspiring professional distance runners who lack the kind of traditional sponsorships that normally mark an athlete as "professional." The runners in question move to Albuquerque or Flagstaff to train at altitude and get by on a sub-poverty level of income (the article mentioned $500-1,000 per month) earned from part-time jobs as waiters or retail clerks. It got me thinking about the nature of aspiration, and how some dream jobs are so common (in terms of number of dreamers, not number of job openings) that the number of people chasing after them vastly outnumber the opportunities available. These are people who work very hard, put in a level of effort that would certainly allow them to be successful in other arenas if they were inclined to pursue money-making with the same passion.

Back to the creative world again, the vast majority of struggling musicians, artists, actors and writers never make anything like a real wage for their efforts, yet still they try. This results in a horde of frustrated creative types willing to give away their work for nothing. In the music world it means fewer people are willing to pay for music because such an abundance exists of free downloads. The equivalent in the world of publishing is that web publishing and e-book publishing lead to more and more material being available to read, often free of charge or at a price like 99 cents. This makes it much more difficult for the "middle class" of creative artists to make money from their work.

Just read Caitlin R. Kiernan's blog entry today which touches on this very thing, from a different angle. "Why does nobody worry about pissing off the artist?" Because there are so many queued up behind saying "You can piss ME off, I won't mind. You don't even have to pay me."

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In my last post I mentioned I've been working harder than ever on writing fiction.

When I first picked up writing again last year, I really only dabbled a few hours occasionally on the weekend. Then late in 2009 I got more serious, and added one or two more weeknight sessions, maybe an hour or two after work.

This summer I stepped it up. I now get up at 5:30 every morning, which gives me almost 90 minutes to write, five days a week, before I have to get ready for work. Three or four times a week, after work and exercise, I might squeeze in another hour. On the weekend I write all day Sunday (8-12 hours), and often an hour or two on Saturday.

This may not be "full time" but it's a huge improvement over what I was doing just six months ago, and it means much of my time not spent at work, or commuting, exercising or eating, is spent writing.

I've often seen established writers offer the straightforward advice, "write more," and I really believe that's the best prescription. As far as I'm concerned, it's not only spending more hours per week, but also making the sessions more frequent and consistent, that makes the difference. When I was writing a couple times per week, every time I sat down I had to re-acquaint myself with where I left off. Now, the moment I sit down at the computer I know exactly what I want to work on, and where I stand with regard to that piece. For this reason, if I had the choice between two hour writing sessions six times a week, or a single twelve-hour marathon, I'd choose the near-daily consistency.

Because of this effect, I'm now writing many more hours per week, and each hour is more productive now than before. Effectively I feel I'm accomplishing ten times as much per week as I did a year ago. It's exciting to finish new stories at an increased rate, and feel I've been able to give them all the care and attention they needed.

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[ GriffinWords ]

August 2013

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