Last week I reached the 40K milestone of my novel. Now for the bit after the celebratory hula-dance; “Panicking About Money.” I’m currently in a very thin work period. As far as wellbeing’s concerned I’m usually quite resourceful at surviving these. In terms of unreliable, poorly-paid jobs, writing’s the pick of the bunch. A writer can always write, even if no-one wants to pay enough for it, which is a hell of a lot better than being (say) an unemployed car mechanic in rural Devon, or a jobbing actor: you can hardly start fixing someone’s beaten-up Renault in the street, or burst into a Shakespearean monologue in Boots, just to keep your hand in. Alas, sooner or later reality – lack of money and being perennially mucked about – bites. Without going into specifics, my finances are in a bad way at the moment and I’m getting quite frightened of what’ll happen * if my paid writing quota doesn’t improve. Being dyspraxic and having been badly burned in the past by taking a job out of desperation/misinformation, I can’t go through that again, so need to consider my next move very carefully. Ever played the game with a child where they have to pretend they’re stranded in a jungle, there’s an obstacle to every possible way out and they have to work out the least-worst? I’m playing for real.
And so, some avenues:
- Advice from somewhere on freelancing better Beyond the very basic/vague/outdated. I once scraped together the fee for an expensive career coach who said she’d freelanced for women’s magazines. Turned out it was 20 years ago, and most of her recent work was drilling sixth-formers for Oxbridge interviews. Guess how that went.
- A staff job in the areas I normally write about If there were any I’d be in one.
- A staff job/regular freelance gig in a completely different area, playing the “I don’t know much about [area] but I write well and am keen to learn” card I fancy this. It’d be nice to learn about something completely new with no personal connotations. But it rarely works that way nowadays. During my journalism training an ex-BBC foreign correspondent told me he rated curiosity and interest over sector-knowledge – I’ve yet to meet anyone of that view in a hiring situation paying a living wage.
- Creative writing bursaries Thinking you deserve these amounts to thinking you’re an exceptional case. Which, for better or worse, isn’t easy – I fought against being ‘different’ for many years before accepting help. But the more I’ve realised I can write and do little else, the more I’ve started to think they’re worth a punt at. I found a brilliant one for ’emerging talent’ sponsored by a big firm with arts ties, and my application’s almost ready to go. Of course, it’s super-competitive and even if I get it I won’t receive the money until spring. Ditto for a paid scheme run by Channel 4s Drama department.
- Sponsored Creative Writing MAs I was going to apply for one in scriptwriting at the National Film and Television School in Beaconsfield (sponsorship includes accommodation – score!). Unfortunately you have to apply in the spring to start the following January and I only found it in the summer, so that’s out.
- Secure my diversity hat I’ve advised big firms on how to make their recruitment processes better for people with dyspraxia and dyslexia (and better generally). I like it and intend to keep doing it so expanding on it would be marv. I’ve had several ideas for a business around the dys theme that I’m trying to refine.
- Find an ‘easy’ day job and put my entire soul into the novel The problem here is what’s ‘easy’ to most people can be my greatest challenge. I’d very happily waitress or pull pints if an employer would happily train me for weeks or months in how to do so without smashing and dropping half the stock. Which, since 95% of the population don’t need that training, I doubt (NB: I type fast despite clumsiness because I learned on an old typewriter age 6 and have used computers every day since secondary school, in case you were wondering…).
- Teach English I’ve tried it already and for a number of reasons (personal, practical, financial) it didn’t work. I put it here because someone would suggest it otherwise…
- The oldest profession Reports of broke grads turning to sex work have done the rounds for some years. I’d bet most women who’ve done a gender studies module and read some Anais Nin have considered it for at least a split second, but no, it’s not for me. In the style of Alastair Campbell and Victoria Coren, I spent an illuminating week freelancing at an erotic publication a few years ago. That’s another story, best served with wine…
- Don’t work at all, have children instead and spend all day Facebook-ranting about how everyone hates full-time mums Let’s be honest, when you’d name your daughter Saskia after the lead in a Stephen Poliakoff film about incest, neither getting preggers in a hurry or devoting your days to the PTA bake sale are really options. Granted, staying away from child-adverse depressive men and wholly indifferent-to-me women would be a small positive step in the procreation direction, and away from the last 12 years. But still.
- Sing outside Tesco OK, I’m just being silly now. But by the way, the title of this post is a song by The Wonder Stuff. If you knew that, I love you.
* Bluntly, ritual humiliation by JobCentre Plus is what’ll happen. You’d think having written about welfare reforms, spoken to insiders and heard about ‘The System’ as a journalist would make this less daunting, but I feel more daunted the more I know, not less. Highlights from my relatively brief post-university JSA stint included trying to explain how sending me on a literacy course would be an inefficient use of resources, without resorting to baby-talk or violence…