Every now and again, when I tell people I’m a writer, the response is something like “oh but there’s no money in writing, you know.” Always with an air of hasty concern, like someone seeing you heading for the beach and at pains to warn you there have been shark sightings. I always have to restrain myself from saying “Noooooo! Really? Gee, I’ve only been writing for most of my life and I guess I never noticed there’s no money in it, thank you SO much for enlightening me, I shall now abandon writing and go off and be a stockbroker instead.”
Well, what do such people expect, when they say things like this? Do they a) really think I’m not aware of this (in which case they must think me stupid); and/or b) think I’m in it solely for the money? (Perhaps that’s their attitude towards their work – they do it solely for the money, in which case I pity them.) (And I have to say here, this has even come from other aspies once or twice, it’s certainly not limited to NTs.) My feeling is, people like this don’t really understand the creative life, or creative people, or what drives us to create. Perhaps they’ve had to stifle their own creativity, or had it stifled for them. Perhaps they too would like to write, or paint, or whatever, but were told when young that it was an ‘impractical’ choice of career, and they should be nice, ‘responsible’ lawyers or teachers or secretaries or businesspeople instead. Perhaps they’re scared of creativity, seeming, as it does, to ‘come out of nowhere’. Or perhaps their ego drives them to really think they’re doing you a favour with such ‘warnings’.
Whatever the reason, it’s very annoying. Yes (she says wearily), like most writers, I know that the chances are that I won’t make it to the top of the bestseller list (we always dream of being the next J.K. Rowling or whoever, but we don’t expect it to happen). I don’t write because I believe I’m gonna ‘make it big’, however - I write because I am a writer. It’s what I am, what I do, what I now know I was born to do. It’s the only thing that doesn’t make me feel like I’m wasting my time on this planet, the only ‘work’ that makes me feel in tune with my deepest spiritual longings. If I don’t write regularly, I begin to feel blocked and spiritually ‘constipated’ and ‘stuck’ in my life, I start to get depressed and screwed up in my head, in short, I become one very, very unhappy aspie. So even if I never make a cent from my writing, I will still write. Even if I won a fortune on Lotto tomorrow, I will still write. I expect to write till the day I die. It’s not a career, in other words, it’s a vocation.
On top of this, there is my own particular situation. The truth is, I don’t actually have any other ‘marketable skills’ to make a living with. The years of illness caused by my CFS means I didn’t get the chance to acquire the qualifications, skills, or work experience necessary to find employment in today’s tough job market. Add in ageing, various physical infirmities and my AS, and I’m probably unemployable. That doesn’t mean I don’t think I could do some jobs if given the chance, it means it’s unlikely I ever will be. So writing, even if it only ever earns me pennies, is ‘It’.
Moreover, people who say there’s ‘no money’ in writing (or any other creative endeavour), fail to understand that when you’re on the bones of your proverbial, any sum of money, however small the amount, is to be grabbed at with both hands, even sums that others would think negligible. $20? That’s a trip to the movies, or a night I don’t have to cook. $200? Some much-needed new clothes. $2000? A new computer, or getting my teeth fixed. And so on. When you’re poor, every cent you can get it is worth it. Every cent.
So those who try to warn me that ‘there’s no money in writing’? I really, really, don’t get such people. Is it that they think everything is or should be solely about acquiring huge amounts of money – and if something doesn’t promise that, then it’s not worth it? Is that how they see the world, the goal/s they think everyone should be pursuing? Are they that desperate, or greedy, or cynical, or – what? Why should (pots of) money be the sole criteria or objective in life, and/or the sole reason for choosing to follow a particular profession? Why do they feel they ‘have to’ warn me against being creative? Where, in short, are such people coming from?
I truly, truly, don’t get them.