Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Cost of Authorship

Writing a novel is a resource sucking proposition.  That it takes time should be obvious to anyone.  How much time it takes may not be easy to fathom.  The process varies much from one author to the next and, in cases like mine, varies from day to day.  Suffice it to say it takes not hours or days but weeks or months, sometimes years, in actual work time.

But there is more than time that gets sacrificed to create a novel.  I my case, sleep is a casualty.  Not that I never sleep.  There are authors who don't when in the midst of a project.  My own sleep patterns are sometimes disrupted by the creative process.  I cannot count the number of nights I have lain awake trying to sort out a part of my current project or how many mornings I have been awakened early by the very real need to get the words on paper NOW before they are gone for good.

For some authors...I am trying not to be one of these, by the way... mental health is sacrificed for art.  There are well known cases.  Hemingway, Lockridge and Kerouac come to mind.  I have watched several writer friends slip right off the edge mentally, lost in the work they can never seem to perfect.  That drive for perfection can drive an artist to drink and a whole lot more.  Sometimes the sense that one's best work is behind her can be the catalyst for major self-abuse.

The writer's life can also take a toll on relationships between the author and his friends and family.  It makes sense that a person who is committed to telling the Truth in his writing might anger some folks, but it's more than that.  Sometimes, writing just takes us deep inside and far away from the world that keeps on keeping on around us.  It is often at that time of complete withdrawal that we are most on our game.  It is also then that friendships and marriages and relationships with parents and progeny can suffer most.

There are also financial resources that can get depleted when an artist is committed to doing her work.  Unfortunately, the work part of writing often pays nothing at all.  If there is to be financial remuneration it comes long after the artist's work is completed.  And, as I said, writing takes time.  Time being money and all, that can be a real dollar diddler.

I imagine you can see how these forces intertwine and interact, how financial worries can lead to mental health issues that can then make the creative spark fade, causing more worry and driving a writer further away from the people who might support him emotionally.   I am also sure there are additional prices we pay for being authors that I have not recalled or mentioned here.  I open the floor now for discussion of that topic.  What does making art cost you?  How do you cope?