Family Support for Writers

This is a small blog, and I don’t get a lot of commentary, but in this post I’m going to invite readers to answer some questions. You can take them rhetorically, if you like, and answer them to yourself.

You have started a business. We’ll say a bakery, that, COVID times in mind, has a web-based storefront and does home deliveries. A relative tells you she needs a birthday cake for a party: “And you can just send it to my house on Saturday. Get it there before two o’clock.”

She thinks you would do this for her, for free.

Or you’re an accountant, the tax season begun, and people in your circle keep calling you with “just one quick question”. They don’t think your answering counts as a billable service.

In either case, you, the business owner, probably feel that freebies take time and resources, and it’s not reasonable to expect that being someone’s sister or best friend entitles you to them.

Writing a book, of course, takes hundreds of hours. You may self-publish, and be forced to bear that onus of “not a real writer”. If people will buy your books, they give you two gifts: a dollar or two in royalties, and an uptick in stats. Better stats mean more eyes to see that your book is out there, among the millions on Amazon.

So, writers, do you find that people you know think it’s your job to give books away? Do you find members of your family to be very supportive, or to act as though your career isn’t one, legitimately? If you have family or friends who own businesses, do any of them expect your patronage, without patronizing you in return? If you sell on Amazon, do you know of anyone who boycotts Amazon, and won’t buy your stuff even to be helpful to you? Would this person accept your book if you bought it yourself, then, and made a gift of it? And being honest, would people you know treat you differently if you were “somebody”? Would you treat people differently, if their work were acclaimed, or had the attention of a famous person?

In the world of consumer choices, dogmatic quid pro quos are not realistic. People are going through rough times and doing their best, these days, but you can’t buy all the makeup and vitamins they’re selling, donate to all the causes, get rooked for family loyalty’s sake by what might even be a Ponzi scheme, just to be helpful. If you have ten books for sale at ten dollars each, it’s fair for others to balk at the expense of collecting the set. But what are your thoughts on double standards (you owe me, I don’t owe you) or just a general level of enthusiasm lower towards yours, than you would (at least like to think) yours would be towards their attempt to make a living?

Grey Day Things to Read

 

I subscribe to those newsletters—from the New York and Los Angeles Times—that give a round-up of the daily headlines. And ones on cooking, book reviews; ones from the Smithsonian, Atlas Obscura, Snopes…quite a few. So I don’t try to keep up with reading them each day; I put them in a folder, and read ten of the oldest. By this method, I’ve gotten to January of 2019. Which, by serendipity, gives me a daily reminder of what was going on this time last year. The political news ages badly. Headlines about Trump’s lies, or his plans for the border wall, are boring same-old, same-old, taken in retrospect. But the emergence of COVID—which hasn’t happened yet—is pretty suspenseful. 

Above is a little collection of books I harvested out of my basement. Some of them I’ve carried from place to place since childhood. Some I’ve had for a long time and never read. I used to own Ursula K. Le Guin’s essay collection on fantasy writing, The Language of the Night. She more or less recommended The King of Elfland’s Daughter (Lord Dunsany), but when I tried it years ago, I found it a little slow-paced. So I’ll give it another shot; reread some of Ray Bradbury’s short stories, the Nicholas Blake mysteries—good, and actually by the poet Cecil Day-Lewis (father of actor Daniel Day-Lewis). 

Then, there are the Joan Aiken (daughter of poet Conrad Aiken) stories, and the Lloyd Alexander series The Chronicles of Prydain, both books I read over and over growing up, so I’m going to try them again, for nostalgic fun.