Working Stiffs

Working Stiffs

The New York Times published an essay on why more books aren’t about white collar office work given how pervasive it is in modern society. A fair question. However, the journalist’s answer “because writers are out of touch with real work” is patently absurd.

She begins in part: “In normal times, [novelists] tap away in their ‘offices’ at Starbucks, thanking their lucky stars for the book contracts that allowed them to give up their day jobs.”

I know enough professional authors to populate a small town, and the number of them who make enough from writing alone to support themselves, forget dependents, could be counted on one hand with a few fingers left over. Ninety-nine percent of novelists either have day jobs, are stay-at-home spouses of people with day jobs or have retired.

Writing alone is rarely an economically viable way to make a living. It pains me to say it, but it’s true.

There’s a reason dozens of successful writers were willing to mud wrestle for David Foster Wallace’s vacated professorship at a college you’ve only vaguely heard of. As one prospect said, it comes with health insurance.

And to whomever gets it, I’m open to a TA position. References available upon request.


  • Keith

    18.03.2010 at 22:48

    Ooh, you’ve got my dander up, Ash. FYI. People who are writing full-time cannot have “retired” by definition. Writing is a job! Keith

  • A.H. Ream

    18.03.2010 at 23:53

    Very true. Retired from whatever profession they may have had before.

  • Darrell James

    19.03.2010 at 13:40

    The reason more writers don’t write about the workplace is A.) It’s boring!!! B.)It’s the place we’re all trying to escape from.