Ok my pretties, sorry for the delayed posting. I'll fess up: Star Trek Online is my new crack and I've been smokin' it nonstop for almost a week. I'm 39 levels up in just 6 days and I'm only not smokin' it right now because there's a server issue so the game is down. Yup, I'm that kind of geek.

However, I had a planned post mulling around in my head. How can one be a starving artist and not go insane? Look at the great writers, musicians, and artists (most of them) who committed suicide when they were young, and you realize why: the stress of leading an artistic life in a society that revers it but refuses to understand art in anything but economic turns more artists than anything else.

To be fair, alcohol works hard to be #2. look at Fitzgerald's "after" picture.

So how do you do it right? You need to cover the following areas:

  • Living Situation
  • Working Situation
  • Social Situation
  • Art Situation  

Let's start with the working situation first. I cannot stress this enough: you need a day job and a backup plan. Your art may not pan out but if you're like most people who in believe in the fairy tale of "go to college, get married, have kids, buy a house"...reading your poetry at open mike nights until you're 60 won't work. So first ask yourself what you want your life to be if art doesn't pan out. Young or old it doesn't matter. Study or work in a field that you enjoy and can support a fulfilling life with.

Now even if it does pan out, it will take years of hard work, blood, sweat, tears, and death threats to editors and critics before you can make a living at it. So you need to put food on the table, a roof over your head, and pay for those exotic dances somehow. Enter the mis-named day job. As an artist you NEED one that is low-stress. For fuck's sake, live within your means and NEVER INCUR DEBT over $500 (and never with interest unless it's a flat $20 to pay back Uncle Mort). Trust me, debt means the kind of job that kills you. Live like an anarchist: no bank account, no credit, and you can work any damn job you want. Best job I ever had was training sales people for database management systems. I spent my days in the desert eating chicken wings with clients and my nights partying like the college kid I was. Also, at that time I wrote enough poetry to bludgeon a Bronte sister with and won quite a few awards. enough I have, to this day, made more money off 2 years of poetry than 14 years of writing.

The only real money in poetry is when we set it to funky beats and being a narcissist. Lovely society we have.
Next you need to worry about your means. The first thing is this: live as cheaply as possible. Get roommates. Sane, stable ones, and never pick fellow artists. Only one of you can come up short on bills/rent time to time, and let it be you. Get rid of as much stuff/crap/hoarding gold you can, and adopt the belief that you never buy anything you don't need. Roommates will also provide the social stimulation most writers need, since we're not overly social creatures.

One expense you should incur is a pet. If I didn't have my dog, I'd go mad. He keeps my sanity, warms my feet, gets my ass off the couch, and makes all the neighbors talk to me. He's trained to recognize my business or friends ringtone on my phone and fetch me when I don't hear it, ignoring unknown callers. He's trained to never bark, and to sit and listen to me pitch story ideas and act interested. I'm considering becoming Catholic to canonize him, and every writer needs that companionship in their life.

Budgeting is very important in this scheme. You have to set your budget by the month, by the week, and never go over it. Keep records and try to use cash. Watching twenties disappear is a lot more effective at budgeting than swiping plastic. Learn that eating out is unnecessarily expensive and should be reserved for special occasions or dates, so it's worth it to splurge more on real food than any shit from Pizza Hut. Never, ever eat fast food, for about a million reasons, but mostly this: you're overpaying for fries and pop by nearly 1,000%. Considering most of the food is primarily cellulose (processed wood pulp) you're overpaying for even a $0.99 "hamburger," too.

Learn shortcuts at home. Coupons only work on the things you're already buying. Don't buy something new & different just because you can save a few cents. Why own a car if you live & work in a city with public transit? If you don't, why waste money on a new car that loses 50% value when you drive off the lot? did you know the best kitchen cleanser is cheap laundry detergent diluted with water? Also, you only need 1/2-1/4 the about of detergent that fills the cap, per load? Lastly, did you know the difference between generic and name-brand detergent is zilch? It's not just all-color Cheer that can wash mixed loads, any detergent can, just be careful about mixing reds and whites. Do your research; I figured out detergent because of high school biology. Most things we're told in everyday life are lies, and if it's told to you by the maker, it's 100% a lie. Remember, Lysol was first sold as a douche. 

Truth in advertising? Ha!

Socially every writer should get away from the computer (I will when I make Admiral, I swear, really, I swear) and socialize. But choose your friends wisely. Fellow artists are good and sometimes emotionally supportive, but you're always in competition. I recommend people with interests in common outside of your art. My friends are all from gaming geeks, bookworm nerds, or BDSM/metalheads, my hobbies outside of writing. That's actually the pool where I find lots of English degrees and friends willing to edit, I found zilch among the writers I know.

English degrees usually show up in strange places
Now for your art, in this case, writing. Stephen King writes 1,000 words a day. Yeah, pretty easy with all those millions, I doubt he has to do any laundry or ever clean a dish, so shut up Mr. King. I love your writing, sir, but your douche-y advice won't work for most people. Write 6 days a week for a scheduled amount of time. Maybe Tuesday you can do only 20 minutes but Wednesday you can 3 hours. Great! Stick to it, for real, no goofing off. Just allow yourself goofing off time. And you need one day a week away from your writing or you will go mad. 


I'm pretty sure that's how  Scientology started.

 Lastly, you will need to combine your social and art arenas with networking. I've written on this before and will again, so keeping it general, befriend the serious, studious, dedicated artists of all fields. Collaborations, partnerships, friendships spring from this. Leave the psychos and wannabes alone. And always give as much as you take, or else you become the pariah.

This is a general, very general look at what kind of care and feeding writers need. This is the introduction of your own user manual. Please reverse for Espanol, and never mind all the left over nuts and fasteners.