Thursday, May 13, 2010

The New Thing Part 2 is coming in 5 days

There is lots of anecdotal evidence that having a career as a writer in New Zealand is f--ing difficult. Like, there are somewhere around 20 screenwriters working in New Zealand who make a living from writing full-time. Like, our most successful novelists with an extensive back-catalogue are earning around $30,000 p.a. from their work.

Here's an excerpt from a Salient interview with Witi Ihimaera that illustrates this point:
Every time I look at Maurice Gee’s work, or Patricia Grace’s work, I’m always stunned at what they’ve achieved. If they were working overseas they would not be working, I would not be working. They would be supported, I would be supported. Let me fire you an example:

Sky Dancer has know sold out 4,000 copies at $34.95, of which I get 10 percent in royalties – $3.45 for every book. From 4,000 copies I will realise $14,000.

It’s not a lot of money, so we do it for love, we do it because we have this commitment. I remember Maurice Gee saying once on the radio, he won an award for about $12,000 and the interviewer was saying ‘what are you going to do with this money?’ And he said ‘oh well, there’s a thing called the mortgage, and this will help to pay it off.’
About six years ago, I was script-editing at Gibson Group (which, in my experience, involves trying to find the funny while infected with the flu and working till 2am). I hung out with the other editors, who'd been writing professionally for years. When I asked them about their careers, they kept emphasising that they had other jobs - part-time, sure, but steady incomes - and they wrote and created in multiple areas, just to make sure the money kept coming in.

I begin to suspect that my experience working on lovebites has ill-prepared for the realities of writing in a number of ways.

So, my starting position is this: I need to be writing and creating stuff because I love it ... and worry about the potential (or 'hypothetical' or 'tiny') monetary rewards later. So rather than money, I want to be mentally engaged and excited by building stuff, and I want to feel that it's adding to my life.
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