Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Comment: The Costs of the Bookish Life

Today, among other things, I am working on writing a story about a visit to the doctor in the voice of a 12-year-old boy. (As if I have any idea what that's like.) I'm entering names and emails into a database. And I'm emailing frantically, making dates and setting up meetings with people I barely know and with people I need to ask about those people.

It makes for some strangely schizophrenic moments, trying to keep all these projects straight. But really, they're all part of the one big project of making a living doing what I love.

I do freelance writing so I can pay the bills (and save for a wedding) while making a bookseller's salary.

I'm compiling RSVPs for the Emerging Leaders Night Out because I think building our literary community is important, because I want to raise the profile of booksellers in the New York literary landscape, and because I know I'm going to rely on these folks throughout my bookselling career. (And because it makes our jobs fun.)

I'm arranging meetings with fellow booksellers to trade notes; industry officials to pick their brains and offer my insights; and financial and neighborhood experts to find out more specialized information, all in the pursuit ofmy dream of opening my own store.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed. It's easy to wonder why I'm doing all this stuff. I imagine everyone who has chosen to make their career in the rarified world of words-on-paper feels the same way sometimes. There are easier and more lucrative ways to make a living, ways that don't demand so much from us on the job and off the job. There are lifestyles that are simpler, less taxing.

But in the end, I think none of us would trade it for the world. We're lucky to be in an industry where most of us are doing what we do out of love (tempered with a human desire for glamour and respectability; what else are book parties for?) We do whatever we have to do to make our chosen career path possible, financially and emotionally. Our projects are part of our choice to work in this field -- and sometimes, far from being sacrifices, they're part of the perks.

What's the strangest or most boring thing you've had to do in order to keep working as a writer, bookseller, editor, etc.?

What side projects make your day job worthwhile?

Why are YOU doing this?