Why this writer needs to be punished

Image: Pixabay 'My God, it's full of stars'

Image: Pixabay
‘My God, it’s full of stars’

I have a terrible thing to confess.

I know, you’re thinking the worst. Murder, arson, wearing socks with sandals and horribly short shorts that ride up between chubby thighs when I run for the bus? Ooh, now there’s an image. Well, you’ll be happy to learn it’s none of these, but it’s pretty serious all the same.

I’m trying to be a Writer. But I’m better at being a Reader, I’ve been doing it a long time and have become quite the dab hand at it. In fact, if they gave adults gold stars for reading, then I reckon I’d have a gallery of them by now, I’m that good. (Why don’t we get gold stars after we leave school? If I had a chart and some lovely, shiny stickers to give out at home, I’m confident I’d never find the toilet seat up again.)

But it’s the way I read books I have to confess.

No, it’s not by E reader. I don’t see that there’s anything to confess about using such devices. We’re all adults here. If we want to consume our books electronically rather than through ink and paper, I’m not going to judge.

I still read books the old fashioned way, but it’s my supply method that’s shameful.

I DON’T USE MY LOCAL LIBRARY

I know. If there was a union for *Aspiring, Sarcastic, Smart Aleck Writers (and I’d bothered to join) I should be drummed out  immediately.

I used to go alot when my son was small. I read to him from when he was four months old, dragging him to our local library ever couple of weeks to pick up a new batch of primary coloured, slightly sticky picture books to inspire him to love reading as much as I did when I was young.

Now he’s eleven and gets his reading kicks elsewhere (birthday / Christmas / pocket money / school). So I don’t go either. I got fed up of not having anything other than James Patterson and Lee Child to choose from (a gross exagerration, of course, but I do find the selection at my local library uninspiring) and there are second hand book stalls to buy from and charity shops and Waterstones always has a buy-one-get-one-with-a-bit-off deal and then The Book People are always sending me emails about their latest sales and I can order from them without leaving the sofa  ….

So, even though I know libraries in the UK may go the way of the dodo and the thylacine, that the government want to dismantle the whole system our philanthropic forebears put in place, even though I’ll be the first to rail against the cuts if our local library is closed … Still, I don’t use them.

When was the last time you borrowed a book from your library? Or do you only use them when you need the loo or to snuggle up to the radiators on icy days?

Am I an evil person who should be forced to read every one star reviewed book in Amazon’s catalogue?**


Here’s an interesting if sad review of the rate of library closures.

*ASSAW – it’s catchy, there’s no denying.

**This review made me laugh out loud. It was so good, I was almost tempted to order a copy … I read the sample pages of the book it’s talking about and my brain nearly fell out. Ah, the joy of self publishing.

Author pay inequality: Is assassinating James Patterson the only solution?

James Patterson's daily earnings awaiting collection. Probably. Image: Pixabay

James Patterson’s daily earnings awaiting collection. Probably.
Image: Pixabay

So, having read my post (because I’m sure you did, didn’t you?) about the English class system and people’s inbuilt assumption that the hoi polloi, the working man – chavs – can’t also be intelligent and creative … Which side of the Shakespeare argument did you fall on?

Are you a Williamite or an Anti-Stratfordian? (And no, I’ve not made that phrase up, honest. Well, the Williamite bit is mine, but it sounds good, don’t you think?)

This discussion about cash, spondoolicks – money – led me to thinking.

You see, our Will did alright out of his quill and parchment, earning enough money through scribbling and investments to build New Place – supposedly the second largest house in Stratford at the time. He even had enough spare that he could famously leave Anne, his wife, his ‘second best bed’, suggesting the old spend thrift owned more than one. Maybe Will snored. Maybe Anne had night terrors and threatened to stab him as he slept.

All this suggests that if you’re smart with your cash – and happen to be a genius – you could make a respectable living from artistic endeavours back then. Something we can’t necessarily claim today.

I count myself a very fortunate woman. I’ve mainly had low paid shop jobs, it’s true. Look at my CV and you won’t be blown away by my achievements (unless you’re impressed by someone who’s done everything from waitressing to working in a farm shop, selling alcohol and measuring mature ladies for corsets, and if you are – God bless you!)

But I am able (thanks to a very understanding husband) to work part time, leaving me a couple of days a week where the house is free of boy and man, to write. This is a good thing for my creativity – such as it is – as I’ve found I’m rubbish at writing in the evening, any brain cells I do possess gradually shutting down as the sun sinks low. I managed to pass a humaities degree working in the evening but creativity after dark doesn’t come easy. Maybe my Muse runs on Vitamin D. Maybe I’m just hopelessly dozy.

Whichever, after the last streaks of gold have fled from the sky, ideas evaporate from my mind like election promises from a newly elected Prime Minister.

I’m doubly lucky with my other half, because despite the large amount of time I devote to writing, I’ve made very little money from it so far. If I had to live on earnings from writing … Well, I’d be squatting under a bridge, keeping warm through newspaper quilts and rubbish bin fires and eating any manky pigeon that happened to limp past. Up to this point, I haven’t earned enough to pay for a weekend away, let alone a week’s rent. And the statistics say that’s unlikely to change.

As with other professions in the UK, the majority of the wealth earned by authors is concentrated in the lucky top 10%, who make £60,000 or more pa. The bottom 50% of authors earn £10,500 or less and as the average wage here is £26,500 (about $41,500 – bearing in mind the cost of living is higher in the UK), you can see that for the majority, being able to write for a living with no additional income is tough.

Added to that is the fact that authors’ earnings continue to shrink year on year and you have a scenario where there will be even fewer full-time writers in the near future (unless they’re kept by truly stunning, amazing spouses of course.)

But is this a bad thing?

I gain a lot of ideas whilst out of the house. Sitting in a café, walking the streets, travelling on public transport, working in a shop you get to see IT ALL.

If I worked from home all the time, I would never have seen an actress playing Lady Godiva whilst riding a horse in the middle of Bristol in the pouring rain armed only with a flesh coloured body stocking and artfully arranged waist length hair. I would never have met Rosa, the elderly ex-café manager with connections to the Mafia. I would never have met the inspiration for Lexie, the leopard print legging wearing force of nature.

And yet … Wouldn’t we all really, truly feel we’d ‘made it’ if we were able to give up the day job and write full-time? It’s justification for all the hours we spend tapping at keyboards in the early morning/late night, for all the times we’re caught staring into space and when asked use the feeble excuse ‘I was thinking.’

There are a few solutions, of course.

Publishers and companies like Amazon could actually pay writers what they deserve instead of entering into price wars with each other where the only one who loses out is the person who produced the raw product in the first place.

Or – and stick with me on this – we could start assassinating those huge authors, the ones who are way up in the top ten ‒ top five ‒ percent of earners. I mean, really, who’d miss James Patterson, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, John Grisham, Suzanne Collins …

Hmm. Maybe I better take that idea back to the drawing board.

Never mind the trolls: what blogging can do for you.

Photo Pixabay

Photo Pixabay

Something surprised me this year.

No, it’s not the creeping realisation that Wagon Wheels have shrunk since I first ate one in 1975. Or the fact that people seem to prefer the name Snickers over Marathon and Starburst over Opal Fruits – the crazy fools.

It’s not even the fact that reading an E. L. James book is akin to voting Conservative – no one admits doing it, but the numbers say otherwise. You know who you are.

No, the surprise has come through blogging.

Firstly, as an almost newbie to the inter-webby-netter-sphere, I thought I knew what the virtual world was filled with. Yes, there are websites that can sell you everything from double-glazing to head lice combs. There are ways to view every kind of entertainment known to man and some that frankly most people wouldn’t dream of without swallowing a handful of those pretty coloured pills the young man on the street corner sells. (You know, the chap who’s a walking dictionary of badly spelled tattoos and has a Rottweiler called Chlamydia because he overheard the word whilst standing in the queue at the pharmacy and liked the way it rolled off his tongue.)

But these decent, honest ways to scalp the public of their hard earned do not the bulk of the internet make. Everyone who reads the tabloids knows what it is full of.

If the web had substance and you could plonk it on your bathroom scales, the heaviest bit would be adult below the waist material. Because no one bothers looking at the top shelf in the newsagent anymore – why use vital energy reading when you can let other people’s ideas of eroticism slip from touchscreens straight into your hypothalamus, spreading its tentacles  like some kind of sexy electric octopus?

And the rest of the web-mass is made up of trolls, isn’t it. Not the hiding under the bridge kind we had when I was a girl, but the sitting-in-a-dark-room-shooting-threats-off-to-strangers-just-because-they-dare-to-do-stuff kind.

As a side note, do you think kids realise there were such things as trolls before the internet and those spiky-haired, psychotically-smiley dolls? It would be so much easier to catch the cowardly keyboard jockeys if all we needed to do was hang around internet cafes with Billy Goats as bait. 

Anyway, these are the two main things any middle aged, middle Englander knows about the internet and while I’m sure, if I Googled any rude word we used to circle in the school dictionary all sorts would pop up, expanding my knowledge of humanity and forcing me to have my hard drive wiped, blogging hasn’t really been like that.

In fact, most bloggers are just trying to send the best of themselves out into the world whilst simultaneously being a pleasant and supportive bunch.

And the surprises didn’t just come from the virtual world.

I was never the most productive writer. It’s taken me six years to date to write my YA novel. Okay, I’ve been learning on the job, I’m on at least the third rewrite and I’ve written a couple of other books along the way, but all the same, some writers publish a new book every year – James Patterson will probably have banged out two in the time it takes for you to read this post.

I’ve published over 100 blog posts so far, and with each of those being around 500 words, I could’ve written a novella since I started. If nothing else, it’s shown me I can write regularly and to order, which is no bad thing for someone attempting to spin words into a living.

Even if much of what I publish is nonsense, experience tells us good money can be had that way.

So, here’s to the next 100.


What has blogging done for you? Has it improved your writing or harmed it?