Who Wants to Be a Writer?


  by Ann Prehn 

        I write. Many of my friends write, really good books that only a few have read. Neil Murphy wrote some of the best stuff ever, but as far as I know, was only published in the now-defunct Harbin Quarterly (see archives for some of Neil’s musings). Writing requires a lot of sacrifice, especially if it’s not your job. The truth is, very few people are lucky enough to get paid for writing what they want to write.

           I recently finished writing a novel, my only one, and it took me two and a half years. A conservative estimate is that I averaged five hours a day writing and reading, and spent several thousand on writers’ conferences, editors, and books for research. If my time is worth $10 an hour (the value of an Ithaca Hour), then for 350 days/year, I put in $87,500 in labor.  If my time is worth double that, well – you do the math.  So conservatively, I’ve got anywhere from $90,000 – $180,000 invested in this book, not to mention eye strain, weight gain, loss of social life, and a neglected homefront. I will have to invest even more if I self-publish, and would have to move a lot of units to cover that kind of scratch.

           Two agents actually say they are reading my book – yea!  But even if I were lucky enough to be published at someone else’s expense, the going advance for a new writer is $15,000, with low enough royalties to make it unlikely that any more money would be forthcoming. Unless you’re J. K. Rowling, you’re definitely not writing for the money, or even for being read.

           Of course, if you’re like me, you write anyway. We’re not writers, but we write – only the Muse knows why.

           Fortunately, there’s a group at Harbin for our kind of misfit. It’s called Elyseum, and it meets on Sundays at 6pm.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, some of Elyseum’s writing is available to read in the Harbin Restaurant.

           Harbin has groups for other kinds of misfits, too – lots of them: Acting, singing, drumming, art, howling at the moon. If there are things you feel compelled to do and not just for money, check us out.

           Meanwhile, if you write but aren’t a writer, maybe I’ll see you on Sunday.

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