So, this semester I took a course taught by Craig Morgan Teicher called "Writing for Money". Yes, that is the biggest oxymoron ever. Mostly we wrote book reviews (both of the long and short variety) and then ended by writing about something other than books that might make us money some day. Capsule reviews are a possible way to make money as a student - they usually pay somewhere between forty and eighty dollars depending on the publication, though more often than not you don't get paid at the start. I hope publish some myself in the future (let me know if you can help me out with that). The class also got me thinking...how does one make money as a writer? Last year I read an insanely depressing article by Keith Gessen, who said that the only ways that writers get by are the following ways: academia, journalism, odd jobs, and independent wealth. I also once heard George Saunders say that he only knew three people that made a living by writing [fiction] alone. For now, I fall into the category of odd jobs. Here is what I have done since last summer.
1. I spent last summer as an unpaid intern or A Public Space (hey, I never mention that!) and couldn't find a paying job to work with my schedule or utilize my skills (I don't have any). The only pay I got from APS was free books, free beer, and, when they forced me to barback at a Book Expo party, around fifty dollars in tips.
2. I took surveys and participated in focus groups. I used one service that does online surveys. I don't recommend it. Each survey takes like 20 minutes and pays you around $2.50. You can't cash out until you reach fifty dollars. I made fifty-seven. Then I did a focus group for a really poorly designed and poorly executed social networking site for "artists". They harassed for a while afterward until I deleted my account. They paid me fifty dollars.
3. In the fall, I started writing for Brijit. It's a website that pays you to aggregate newspaper and magazine articles, TV segments, and radio shows into 100 words or less. Then they display it on their website...if your writing is better than the two others aggregating the same article. If your article happens to get accepted, they'll pay you five dollars for a print media abstract or eight dollars for a radio/TV show abstract. About half of my articles were accepted. In three and a half months, I made an amount that sounds large, but given the amount of time it took, is not really all that much. It got tedious and wasn't really worthwhile.
4. Dog walking. My God, dog owners should be considered patrons of the arts in New York City. They mainly employ artists and writers, many of whom charge outrageous sums to walk the dogs of the upper class. I won't disclose how much I make, but I feel it's more than I deserve. Before I started I was nearly out of money, and now I'm doing fine. No worries. I love doing it. The dog I hang out with is also insanely cute:
Anyway, some day I will move beyond odd jobs. Maybe after I graduate next year (what?!?!?!), maybe not, given the job market.
Portishead - Machine Gun