Monthly Archives: July 2014

Is there anything wrong with writing ‘for free’?

£ I write for money.

$ Writing, and all the stuff I do connected with writing (teaching, judging, speaking, appraising) is how I earn my living.

£ But that doesn’t mean that I think that money is the only reason to write. I’m writing this post because I occasionally get asked, ‘Is it OK to write for free?’

$ Sometimes writers write for ‘a byline’ – I’m not keen on the practice because the editor’s usually getting paid. However, the author gets a clippings file out of it, which might help him or her get paying work in the end. If you can see that working for you, then why not?

£ Writers write for connections, too. If they produce something for nothing, possibly the editor will remember once there’s budget to pay writers. I feel that there should always be budget to pay writers, but still …

$ Once in a while, I’ve written for exposure. It means giving someone a short story (usually one that’s already been published, if I’m honest) and, in exchange, they publish it with details of my latest book, with the cover. It’s a way of paying for advertising indirectly, that’s all. On the other hand, I often manage to get paid to write the short story and get the advertising thrown in … which seems a much better deal.

£ And I completely understand why people would write for the plain old pleasure of it.

$ Back in the day I wrote two novels in the evenings. They were rubbish but I didn’t know they were and I’ve honestly never enjoyed writing anything more. It was self-indulgence, but in contrast to some other self-indulgent hobbies, writing’s cheap and doesn’t bother anyone. There’s no commitment to a regular class or club (unless you want to get involved with education or a writing group) and the people you meet in your imagination can be nicer/more fun/hotter/more interesting than any you meet in real life.

£ Most importantly, they never ask anything of you and they never get upset if you don’t see them regularly. Their relationship is with your imagination rather than with your corporeal self so they never judge you, either! Perfect.

$ So although I write for money … that doesn’t mean that I think everybody has to.

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A Course with Wow!

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

Fizz on the terrace on the last evening

I have just spent the most amazing week leading a one-week residential course for Arte Umbria in the Umbrian hills, Italy.

I’m not sure why I should be amazed – I taught there last year. But somehow I’d managed to forget some of the majesty of the views from the terrace on the Poggiolame estate, a little of the history and luxury of the stone-built house. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do it justice.

The pergola on the terrace

The pergola on the terrace

Being at a venue so secluded is novel. The estate has 200 acres, most of it wild countryside but dotted with olive groves, fruit trees, tracks to wander around. Oh yes – and a swimming pool within the lovely gardens close to the house.

Flip chart and table on the veranda

Flip chart and table on the veranda

But my function at Arte Umbria isn’t  to admire the venue, it’s to lead the writing course. There’s something special about my classroom being at a table under a veranda or lounging comfortably beneath a vine-strewn pergola, the sun beating down around. It’s almost a shame to break for (yet another) delicious meal when the bell sounds. It’s a small course so it’s possible to provide a friendly and productive atmosphere and give individual attention to each student and their work in progress.

The students were fantastic. They got so much done and moved their work on so far that I was truly impressed.

Il Duomo - the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Il Duomo – the cathedral at Orvieto, where we went on our day off

Sunset on the terrace

Sunset on the terrace

I even got a chapter of my own WIP written, too! It was a bit of a challenge to write about Camden at Christmas when I was in Italy in July but every day of writing teaches me something new.

I haven’t yet heard what courses Arte Umbria will be running next year but if you’re interested in a course in art, sculpture or writing in fantastic surroundings, go to http://www.arteumbria.com and book.

My room

My room

The pool

The pool

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