The writing life of hacks
I was chatting with a friend, a few minutes back – he’s a good writer, earning a fair share of his income with his books.
He told me he had cooked dinner, done some chores, put the dog back to sleep, and now was about to watch some telly.
I was perfectly able to relate with that – I had just cooked a quick-and-easy pasta for me and my brother, done some chores like taking out the rubbish, and now was about to settle down with a few podcasts and a virtual billiard game.
Hi-octane life of the modern pulp writers.
And yet, while we were chatting, a few notifications popped up on both our Facebooks.
The “wandering writer”, portrayed with laptop and moleskine as he settles down “for a night of writing in a smoky bar”.
The guy that “spent the day translating a novel, not for money, but for passion.”
The fine writer that announces he’ll spend his next two weeks off the grid to meditate in the wilderness.
Both me and my friend wondered how comes we are the only writers that never found a rich woman to marry.
And yes, this is absolutely sexist and unfit for two fine gentlemen like we are, but really, do people really really believe the hype? The, if you will pardon my French, bullshit?
I was reading H. Bedford-Jones’ This Fiction Business, from 1929, the other day – and the King of the Pulps comments in his text1
Most of us are, really, hack writers. The hack writer turns out stories to order, or for a certain purpose. The “author” writes them from an inward urge, or inspiration. As a rule, he has inherited money and can afford to do so.
We can’t. We are in business for ourselves, and we are perfectly honest about it. We can’t make it pay by despising hack work.
And this is it.
Trying to make a living with stories that go for 99 cents a copy or that get paid 7% royalties does not allow us to spend nights in smoky bars, surrounded by sultry chanteuses, or to retire to the wilderness to commune with nature.
But it allows us to appreciate a quite and inexpensive dinner with our family.
It allows us to enjoy the solitude.
And most of all, allows us to be perfectly honest about it.
And now I’ll get me a cup of tea, my podcasts, and my virtual pool table.