Six Excellent Cups of Coffee

 

There’s only one difference between me and Anne, Amy’s fictional author in her hilarious post yesterday: unlike Anne, I know exactly where every cent of my advance went.

My advance was split into three payments – the first third upon signature of the book contract, the second third upon delivery of the final manuscript, and the last third upon publication. Each time my agent sent me a check, I had just enough to treat myself to exactly two exquisite cups of coffee!

Okay, okay, so maybe I could afford a tiny bit more than two cups of coffee with each check, but you get the idea. Anne splurged on “book tour shoes” while personally, I bought a “book tour bag.” Other than that, every bit of the funds have gone straight back into the book. Author photos, conference plane tickets and hotel rooms, visiting my publisher, and of course I needed a few new outfits…

Glass-half full: when revenue – deductions = zero, then no taxes. So, hey, there’s that.

The thing about building a career as a writer is that it almost always takes years to support yourself financially, and yet getting there is a full-time effort. (I’m probably preaching to the choir here.)

For a while, I did the work full-time / write full-time thing. I usually set my alarm at three or four in the morning, wrote for a handful of hours, and got into work around eight am. Sometimes I even squeezed in a run on my way! I’d come home, eat, sleep, and do it all over again. I lasted about a year that way. Sometimes when I’m particularly tired I think I’m still trying to catch up on sleep from that era of my life.

The hardest part of that schedule for me was managing my chronic pain condition. The longer I stared at computers and lost sleep, the worse I felt, and the more I hated the world (and sometimes acted like it).

Here’s where I have to admit that I’m “lucky” in a way, that I have a partial disability payments from the Department of Veterans of Affairs every month. If I could, I’d trade ever cent of those checks in exchange for getting rid of chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, but I can’t, and this is the next best thing. I’m extremely thankful.

The other thing is that my spouse helps tremendously. He says that supporting me in publishing this book and the activism that it entails is his way of making meaning of his work and his life too.

I think it’s really important for those of us who have the luxury of writing time to admit and talk about how that exists for us. Otherwise, we give the impression that anybody should be able to afford the same thing, or that anyone can do it. Indeed, anyone can make it as an author, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have to sacrifice tremendously in order to do so.

Do I hope that someday I’ll earn more as a writer? Absolutely! Just like everyone else here on the Debutante Ball and probably many of you, too. Here’s to hoping that someday (soon) we get there!

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Lynn Hall is a memoirist, activist in the movement to end sexual violence, ultra-runner, and crazy cat lady. Her memoir, CAGED EYES: AN AIR FORCE CADET’S STORY OF RAPE AND RESILIENCE, was published by Beacon Press in February 2017. Her writing has previously appeared in the New York Times, The LA Times, Hippocampus Magazine, The Sexual Assault Report, The Manifest-Station, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, and elsewhere. In the summers, Lynn copes with publication anxiety by spending too many days in the Colorado mountains, and in the winters, with pans of brownies. She lives in Boulder with her partner and their 23 cats. Just kidding…she only has five.

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