An Apology to My Fellow Artists
Counting from the first time I sold a piece of my writing, I’ve been a professional writer for 13 years. And I have something to confess.
Since I’m rather smart when it comes to dishing out advice and very stupid about taking it, I tend to write the worst-paid writing there is: children’s fiction, poetry, personal essays. I do not write clever, bestselling novels for adults (or, at least, I haven’t yet published any) or technical writing that caters to business or industry. On a good year, I cover day school tuition for one kid. (We have four, bli ayin hara.)
To make my dumb choice of profession even dumber, I did not marry a doctor, lawyer, or software engineer who would neatly offset my idealism and fiscal cluelessness. I married a teacher – a good teacher with a great sense of humor, stellar middos, and a tolerance for a crazy wife. (My husband insists that I should admit that my description is very biased – but it’s my description of him, and I’m sticking to it.) Teaching remains an extremely underpaid job.
Need I remind you that we live in Los Angeles, home of outrageous rents and skyrocketing home prices?
This long stream of fiscally nutty decisions means I am forced to disappoint people a lot. When you are a writer, you have colleagues and friends who are also artists – not just writers, but dancers, musicians, and painters. Many of them have supported my creative endeavors over the years, offering advice, buying my books, and cheerleading for me whenever I get discouraged.
Some of these friends have produced albums I’ve never bought.
Some of these friends have written books I’ve never read.
Some of them have acted in plays I haven’t attended.
While I often skip performances because of scheduling conflicts or because they take place after 8 p.m. (I’m a morning person), the most common reason I don’t donate to my friends’ crowd-funding campaigns or hang one of their paintings on my wall is because there is L.A. rent to pay and tuition to pay and a car to fuel and children to clothe, and we’ve all got to get fed. Baruch Hashem, we aren’t at the point where I’m standing at the exit to the 10 with a sign, Will write for food, but I don’t have much change to spare.
If I have a gift to buy, I’ll often pick out a book by a friend, and a splurge for me is purchasing an album by a Jewish musician, but most of the time, I just hope no one confronts me by asking point blank, “Have you read my latest book yet?” or “Did you come to the play?”
And so, I apologize to you if you didn’t see me in the audience the last time you performed. I’m sorry that I checked your book out of the library instead of buying a copy. I know it was kinda stinky of me to forward your GoFundMe campaign but not donate myself.
There was this moment a couple week’s back when my husband and I lay side-by-side and fantasized about changing professions. But who would write our books or teach our students?
(And don’t say, “Someone who invested in Bitcoin right at the beginning and cashed out the right moment.”)