In this recent series of posts – ‘Writing for Love or Money’ I wanted to explore what motivates writers to write, how money can be made from writing even without a traditional publishing contract – and to discover if money is ever the main motive. As part of the series I have invited several authors to contribute a guest post on what motivates them. The contributors write very different things and for different reasons. I hope you enjoy discovering more about all of these talented writers.
This is the third in the series of guest posts. I first ‘met’ Dan Holloway several years ago on a peer review writers website. Later I kept up with him on Twitter and we both write for Words with Jam, an online magazine for writers. I have also visited and reviewed two virtual exhibitions of art and writing curated by Dan at his Eight Cuts Gallery. Dan is a true ‘indie’ writer as you will see.
Love or Money
by Dan Holloway
It’s a truism that if you don’t love writing, really love it, you’ll get nowhere – wherever it is you want to go. But for me it goes beyond that. When I’ve tried to make money from my writing I’ve felt like my writing has really suffered, I’ve been distracted from the goals I’d always set for my writing. It even got to the stage where I have removed one of my books, which I originally self-published to make money, from availability for good.
My parents bought me an old school desk for my 3rd birthday, and I’d sneak downstairs to scribble at it almost every night, but despite that and the fact that our house always creaked beneath the weight of books, and I was brought up to idolise the likes of Virginia Woolf and Colette, the main creative influence in my life has always been art. And the desire to transfer the vibrancy I feel in the art world into the way people see books, combined with a love of philosophy and a burning ambition that comes from playing competitive sports from an early age, has led me to turn my back on the idea of ever making money. Or at least to consider it an irrelevance. I still feel slightly nervous putting my goals on paper (exactly the kind of nervousness that separates a lot of literature from a lot of art) because it sounds so over-reaching, arrogant even. I feel the need to make the obvious postscript every time I do – I am not saying I think I’m good enough to do it, I’m saying I have to try.
In short, I want to make literature the stuff of watercooler conversations the way the likes of Tracey Emin has done for art. I want people to look at books in new ways, to get excited by the possibilities they hold, to make them question what books, stories, words, really are and what they can do. And I want to unpick the structural power games, the patriarchies and colonialisms inherent in every language system, to pull language apart and with it the straightjacket that constrains the way we think of ourselves in the world, and to create from the unravelled mess a poetics of hope, the possibility of every voice truly being able to inject itself into the world.
The practical upshot of this is that what I feel most compelled to write is something no self-respecting publisher would go near. At least not one without a whopping subsidy behind it enabling it to take on board projects with very little chance of selling more than a handful of copies.
But it’s a very hard furrow to plough without deviation. The pull towards something more commercial is incredibly strong. I’ve succumbed to it on several occasions, trying to write thrillers – having a measure of commercial success in the process, but then finding people only wanted to talk to me about marketing or crime fiction, and that the things so deeply ingrained in my writing DNA were being left out of the picture. At other times I’ve found my spoken word shows reaching a wide audience and offered the opportunity to reach a wider one – if I just altered the content a little, made it more widely acceptable.
Pretty much once every six months I find I have to remind myself what I really want from writing, and radically repositioning myself towards the margins. It’s an incredible wrench, and when I am struggling to make basic rent and debt repayments every month it’s even harder, but it feels so much better when I do. And whilst it’s 99% certain that I’ll never achieve my goals, if I head down the path of even thinking about making money, that figure becomes 100%. So, my next project (after my first solo show at Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Some of These Things Are Beautiful, which is a poetic journey through the world of lost friendship), Evie and Guy, due out in May, is a novel without any words, told wholly in numbers. And I will be launching 6 titles from new, largely experimental, poets through my small imprint 79 rat press on June 10th.
You can see YouTube clips of Dan reading his work at the two links immediately below. N.B.Please be aware that although there is no swearing, the content is adult in nature.
Hungerford Bridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Q8HRava-2hc
http://danholloway.wordpress.com (where my collection “i cannot bring myself to look at walls in case you have graffitied them with love poetry”, which accompanies my spoken word show, is free to download, along with my experimental novel “The Man Who Painted Agnieszka’s Shoes”)
You can also read an illuminating interview with Dan over on Jill Marsh’s blog at http://jjmarsh.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/not-the-granta-1-dan-holloway/#comment-1845 –