January 15, 2007

Edit This, Muffler Trucker

Most of you struggling writers out there can attest to this: generating income from writing is bloody difficult.. damn near impossible really. Okay, not actually impossible, but frustrating enough that every once in awhile you consider going back to whatever menial job you once had and ignoring your writing impulse for as long as you can. I'm with you, no question.

The past few months have been spent researching other writing possibilities that can help with the household income. Getting a short story published really doesn't cut it. I am fortunate (blessed, really) to have a wife that makes a decent salary while I pursue these inclinations. And thank the sweet baby Jesus in his manger that society no longer frowns on the husband being the "stay at home" half of the relationship, albeit my in laws still secretly mutter about my apparent lack of responsibility. My discoveries so far: it is a slow process, full of plenty of rejection. But, it can be done.
I've started a correspondence introductory course on Editing/Publishing from
Simon Fraser University (SFU) here in Surrey. It's interesting enough, even from a writer's perspective. Lots of insight into the various types of editors out there and their respective roles: hunter gatherer, liaison and everything in between. There is potential here. A combination of factors, namely the mass influence of the world wide web and the corporate takeover of most of the major publishing houses in North America, a lot of the actual editing work (read: grammar, style, flow, consistency, accuracy etc.) is freelanced out. This means opportunity, once schooling is completed of course. But at what cost?

Much in the same way I think Creative Writing and English (studies) are at odds (construction vs. deconstruction), I think Editing and Writing may be opposing also, though not to the same extent. The job is all consuming. Most of the work revolves around ensuring the publishing machine is running smoothly: money is being put in the right places, copywriters are doing their jobs, the author is happy. At the end of the day, the editor takes the manuscripts home with him to read in his "off hours". This, of course, would be the exact time he should be working on his own material.
An even more complex notion is the issue of becoming a part of the publishing collective; your brain begins to self edit your work to suit the publisher, not your own sense of voice and style. This is perhaps the most deadly of outcomes. Publishing houses are choosing books for their marketability these days, their potential to sell to whatever demographic will offer the most money. It's a business sadly removed from any romantic love of the written word. Most writers cater to the publishing houses, then to the market, then to whatever remnants of their creative voice they feel they have left. Take a look at the bestseller lists in the supermarkets. Horrible tripe most of the time, and yet these are the authors who make the most money. I don't want to fall into that plastic, soulless realm. But, in the same breath, I want to have my work read... even at the risk of it being disliked.

So the trick is finding that razor's edge, that precarious perch where I can balance both my writing, my responsibility, and... my ego. What a vain existence. Slip one way and I'm a sell out. Slip the other way and I've become narcissistic for the sake of some dim vision of art. Stay perched on the edge and I'm safe and... mediocre. And this is all assuming that I have something to offer the industry to begin with. Writers are an underpaid, prattling lot. I suspect many write one way to survive, and another way to experience their lives fully. This is what I would love to be able to do.


Theresa said...

What's going on with your novel-in-the-making?? Thought you were working feverishly on it a while back...??

Harry Tournemille said...

The novel is still there, waiting for me to tackle again. But, alas I have not worked on it for some time now. Trying to find ways to earn a living first...