In an ideal world, I would make enough money writing poetry that I would not be obligated to have a paying job. But, as many of you have already found out through your own experiences, there isn’t a lot of money in poetry. As the print world diminishes, competition increases and the money received decreases. Websites often don’t pay at all. Sites can also be lacking in prestige; there is something to be said for seeing your words in actual print instead of on a screen. Self-publishing is always an option but is only very rarely lucrative. Long gone are the Renaissance times, when it was much more acceptable to be a poet for hire. Back then, people did not judge misanthropic drunks quite so harshly when they were nimble with a pretty phrase and a quill. In contrast, even Poet Laureates are barely recognized, or even remembered, in this day and age.
There are some jobs better suited to poets than others. I know other wordsmiths who also write songs, jingles, or perform with bands. They tell me that it is poetry set to music and that it is the closest they will ever be to a self-sufficient poet. I will take their word for it, as I am not musically inclined. Therefore, this entire career field is off limits to me. I know others who make a living wage as bartenders or servers. It can be easy and opportunistic, allowing us to experience things and meet others who might inspire something within us. I do not quite have the temperament or personality to work with the general public, as I have learned on more than one occasion. I am much better over the phone or on the internet. I am a stereotypical brooding poet. A true introvert. My personality is much better suited to poetry than anything else.
Therefore, I sit behind a computer all day. I choose to work regular business hours because many poetry readings are at night or on weekends, exactly the times that would interfere with restaurant industry jobs. I do mind-numbing work all day. I am so thankful that there is more to my life than that. I get to come home and write. On weekends, I also write. Now I also have this blog to write for. On some evenings, I will go to an event—a book signing, a reading, a poetry slam, spoken word night. I go out to see what others are doing, to get my name out there, to meet others. People who I can listen to, and people who can hear my words. It can be difficult to go out sometimes. My tendency will always be to stay at home.
But, just as yours are, the words I write are valuable. I do not write words to be left in the void. It is imperative that they are heard, or that they are read. My words come alive only when someone else is receiving them. It matters not whether my words are being read silently or if they are read aloud. I must sometimes stand in the spotlight. I must stand in front of a microphone. As much as I fear ridicule and rejection, I am compelled to print out my poetry and share it with the world around me. I am fortunate that it does not ‘interfere’ with my paying job.
I continue to look forward and hope that there will be a day that I can quit my office job and support myself honestly and simply though my words.