Monday, November 28, 2011
Scribo Ergo Sum
"Franz Kafka was a legal secretary at the Workmen's Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague (later: In the Czech Lands), where he wrote reports like 'Accident Prevention in Quarries,' and rose to a top office position, Obersekretär. Though his bureaucratic labors bore literary fruit—providing context and imagery for his fiction writing—Kafka came to feel bogged down by the daily grind. 'Writing and office cannot be reconciled, since writing has its center of gravity in depth, whereas the office is on the surface of life,' he wrote to his fiancée in 1913. 'So it goes up and down, and one is bound to be torn asunder in the process.'
T.S. Eliot, on the other hand, was inclined to keep his day job even after it was financially necessary. When the Bloomsbury group offered to set up a fund that would allow him sufficient funding to become a full-time writer, the poet turned them down. 'This idea that Eliot should be freed from the drudgery of work misses the point that he was actually very interested in the minutiae of everyday life—he was a commentator on the quotidian,' British Library curator Rachel Foss told The Guardian. [...]
Says Von Arbin Ahlander, 'We're kidding ourselves if we think we can make a living on writing.' As for the romantic ideal of the leisurely writer life, slowly crafting one's masterpiece in the calm solitude of a big, empty house: 'I mean, that's over,' she added, 'Unless you're a trust fund baby.'
Though it's rare to make a living on writing, it's becoming increasingly easy to call yourself one. Without any money at all, anyone can publish digitally with the click of a button or, for a price, self-publish a print manuscript. The ecology of authorship has changed dramatically since, say March 1845, when Charlotte Brontë was working as a governess, miserable, and wrote in a letter, 'I shall soon be 30 and I have done nothing yet.' "— Betsy Morais, The Atlantic