The Day Job

I write books. It’s what I do for a living. Now, if I told you I worked in retail I don’t suppose there are people who would assume that I owned half the high street. Neither, if I said I worked in banking, would my acquaintances think that I was on multi-million pound bonuses as standard. So why, why when I tell people that I write novels do they all assume that for every one I get published I receive hundreds of thousands of pounds? Isn’t it a given that every author must be as wealthy as JK Rowling? I wish!  Most years I don’t pay income tax – not because I have off-shore bank accounts, not because I make sure my taxes are filed in Luxenbourg or Eire, but because I simply don’t earn enough. I met a young lady on a writing course. She was fed up with working and wanted a quick route to early retirement and had hit upon the plan of writing a book to achieve this. Last I heard she was still doing the nine-to-five. Of course she’d bought into that other myth – that everyone can write a book and if you start at ‘Chapter One’ fill four-hundred pages with reasonably grammatically correct English, then write ‘The End’, publishers will be queuing around the block to take you on. Sure, if you have the perseverance and application to put 100,000 words down, one after the other, then you too could write a book. Whether it’s a book other people would like to read is a moot point. The thing is, almost everyone can read and write, and lots of people read books for pleasure. Therefore, it follows, if we can read books we ought to be able to write one.  We don’t have the same attitude to things mathematical – we can almost all add up and take away (well, almost all of us) but we don’t read spreadsheets for pleasure. As a result, despite our basic maths skills, the vast majority of us don’t think we could audit a set of company accounts or work in the Treasury. So, please, next time you meet me, don’t ask me when I’m ordering the yacht because, unless I get really, really lucky the biggest floaty-thing that I’ll be purchasing is a rubber duck for the bath. Or unless I win the lottery and, frankly, the odds on the latter are probably better.

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