Balloons, writers and other truths

Have just read this thing in the Sunday newspaper about older people realizing they’d outgrown their jobs. These elderly 50 year olds (yep, written by a pup), had chucked in the 100,000 K per annum jobs and were superbly happy doing things they adored. One was earning minimum wage teaching kids to bake with sugar and another was a poet who once worked for the World Bank. I looked at their radiant smiles and the tranquility in which they basked and I was tempted to follow suite but I’m not that brave – and I think there are a few things the reporter pup has left out. Like how the poet sustains herself for a start. I am not saying that all poets are poor – the Poet Laureate I’m assuming, must make some kind of living, but I do know lots of gifted poets and they are all without exception, Something Else.  Teachers, office workers and one I know has a dairy farm.  They have, as all writers and creators in this country have, “an alternative income stream”. Even well-known writer Elizabeth Gilbert couldn’t survive on eating, praying and loving. When her money ran out from the eating bit, she prayed (I’m with her on that one) then the love just happened along and if my memory serves, she got herself a job so she could spend a few years defying the odds and writing a best seller. That is what all writers want and why we write. It’s not to be tranquil. It’s to get our version of the truth in front of millions and give us the freedom to keep on writing.  But most of us never get anywhere near to the Best Seller lists. What we do instead is blow up balloons. I know that sounds as though I’m going a bit weird but imagine books are balloons. Writers look at a bunch of colourful balloons bobbing around in the sky and imagine how wonderful it would be to prick every single one of them then take that one left over from Ruby’s party,  blow it up and have it be the balloon everyone wants. We prevaricate for a while because lets face it, none of us like having a balloon burst in our faces but finally we step up and blow like crazy . The world around us becomes black and irrelevant and all we can see is the balloon growing magnificently in front of our eyes. Eventually we run out of breath and tie the knot at the end. Perfect. We know we have created something the world has never seen before – but that’s not what we’ve done at all because when we open our eyes we see there are thousands of balloons bobbing around and we have to make ours different. To do that, we stop being a creator and learn how to sell.  Every apprentice balloon blower starts this process by contacting  the middleman –  the literary balloon agents. Literary agents with their unrivalled access to traditional publishers, now weld enormous power and unfortunately,  our balloon isn’t the colour they’re looking for this year.  By now we’ve done some more research and realize how silly we’ve been and that the internet is so much better. It must be, everyone buys balloons on the internet and it’s groaning with stories of success. So we spend 6 months of our precious time (remember we are still hard at work earning the Alternative Income) figuring out how to put our balloon on kindle only to realize we don’t get any money until we’ve sold 100 copies and how can you do that when no-one knows about your balloon and you can’t upload the cover art? The balloon library sounds good but you need 35 copies in circulation with them before they pay you anything and as for getting a balloon review that’s never going to happen because reviewers choose what they review, and when our slowly deflating balloon is sitting beside the new one presented by the agent with the proven-track-record-of-backing-winners; you know it’s over and the only thing left to do is to undo the knot and watch your wonderful balloon fart its way into a saggy bag of  coloured rubber. So yes, I am envious and yes I would love to spend my every waking moment with a smile on my face and no money, but not quite yet. A few months more of regular income and I suspect it will happen because like the Poet Laureate, I too will be paid by the government and for me that’s my opportunity to smile like an aging Madonna while I huff and puff and blow the house down.





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