04.08.09

Taxes & Meaning

Posted in Life in general, On writing, Writers at 9:13 am by Marion

CELEBRATING A YEAR OF RECEIPTS

Even after Fiction Daily’s humiliating absence of more than a week, I am still in the weeds with writing obligations. What’s worse, today I am preparing my taxes.

Yet instead of being entirely a drudge, the tax calculations each year are a time to reflect on what I’ve done in a big-picture way. Day after day we go through our lives, spending money, earning our keep, paying mortgages and spending money on books, travel and … well in our case … dogs and cats.

So each year when I add up what I’ve been paid for my work, and compare it with what I’ve paid for the privilege of being a writer, each year it comes out remarkably even. So in that sense, I “balance my books.”

Of course most people work in hopes they’ll actually make some money and many of them do quite well. My income is very modest, but I cannot ask for better work. That’s generally been true for me. Even when I was small, I cared less about apparent gain, than about the value of what I was doing. Many people mistook that for a “lack of ambition,” but inside I always had a plan. It’s just that plan was not necessarily to make money.

I’ve certainly done OK when I’ve had to make money and I don’t mind hard work. More than 20 years, off and on, as a waitress, school teacher and print journalist confirmed again and again the value of honest, hard work.

My work now is just as hard, but not as, well, sellable. How will I ever recoup the past seven years spent developing a novel that is in many ways still in vitro? How can I ever expect compensation for hours spent looking out my window, dreaming of Winterhaven, my fictional estate, along with Delia Lagrace and her sister, Antonia?

Even if it were published, the money would not qualify as “compensation.” It would of course certainly keep me in food and perhaps even allow the purchase of a car to replace my 10-year old one.

Yet the true compensation for the work we do must be in the projects themselves. The engagement we feel while they are under way, and the deep, though fleeing, happiness we feel when we have created something with art and meaning in it.

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