A Real Writer – by Fiona Veitch Smith
I had been invited to speak to a group of university students on the topic ‘the writing life’. My brief was to give a realistic view of what it was like to work as a ‘real writer.’My first response was:
“You do realise I’m not very successful. Although I have ghostwritten seven published books, my name isn’t on any of them, and the books where my name is on the cover, it’s because I’ve self-published. I’m still waiting for a ‘proper’ publishing contract or on-going film or theatre deal. The film contract I thought was in the can has been cancelled and the funding for the theatre play has been withdrawn. I have to supplement my writing income with lecturing work, and even then, I don’t always earn enough to pay tax every year.
The lecturer, who had known me at the time for seven years, said yes, he realised that, and that’s what he wanted the students to hear. Besides, he was offering to pay me 50 quid, so naturally I agreed.
|Fiona Veitch Smith|
I tried to strike a balance between enthusing the students to follow their dreams, yet tailoring their expectations. I majored on some of my successes: the cover article for Sports Illustrated, the People’s Play Theatre Award, my short film, Enemy Lines, that had been screened internationally, my children’s books that were available in bookshops. But when they asked me how much I earned in a year, and one of them informed me it was below minimum wage and I would get more if I was on benefits (as if I didn’t know!), things started to go down hill.
I retorted that money wasn’t everything and job satisfaction was far more important, but a mumbled ‘tell that to my student loan’ told me I had lost them. The final blow came when a student commented on my varied writing pursuits: ‘Don’t you think you might have got further if you’d just focused on one thing?’
Afterwards, at home, I wondered if he was right. I was a jack of all trades, master of none. I took it to God in prayer, crying out my frustrations and pain. And then the most wonderful thing happened. I felt a peace come over me as I heard an inner voice say: ‘But you have followed one thing, Fiona, you have followed me. And I have led you down these many paths for my purposes. And I will continue to lead you if you continue to follow.’
That was four years ago. Since then I have been far more relaxed about what it means to be a ‘real writer’ (although I still have the odd wobble). Being a ‘real follower’ is far more important. And if that had led me away from writing, back into a ‘proper job’, then so be it. But it hasn’t. Since then, the Lord has opened doors for a number of publishing contracts and I’m hoping to bother the tax man again this year. I’m still waiting for my big scriptwriting break – but only if that’s where He wants to lead me.
For more information on what the average author earns see the latest survey reported in The Telegraph.
Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing lecturer, based in
Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes
across all media, for children and adults. Her formerly self-published
children’s books The Young David Series, are now available from SPCK.
Her mystery novel, The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby
Investigates Series (Lion Fiction), is due out in September 2015. http://fiona.veitchsmith.com