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"As a artist, there is the need to be competent in plenty of other skills"

"As a artist, there is the need to be competent in plenty of other skills"

Published Jun 30, 2023 Updated Jun 30, 2023 Culture
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"As a artist, there is the need to be competent in plenty of other skills"

Can a writer make a living today solely from writing?
It was one of the questions raised and discussed at the Panodyssey Discussion in Cluj (RO) last week. Speakers László Valuska and Ferenc André discussed topics such as the author as a brand, artistic royalties, and the invisible part of artistic production.

The invisible work, accessibility, and the need for creative versatility were among the topics discussed in detail during the Panodyssey programme at the Cluj-Napoca Book Week. As one of the aims of Panodyssey is to enable authors to share and monetize their work, the discussion between László Valuska and Ferenc André naturally led more in depth in this direction. First, they talked about the first ever and current awards for writers. They pointed out the difference: the artist's fee for a book nowadays is roughly equivalent to the minimum wage. "I can't buy a house from that" commented Ferenc André, referring to the previous, more generous prizes he had received, adding that "even a Lego house is hard to buy from this sum". This is the reason why too many artists, in addition to writing and their other artistic productions, also engage in a plethora of educational and cultural activities to secure their financial stability. Ferenc André, for example, cannot afford to spend two months working exclusively on his book; he must continue giving classes in the meantime, adding that even this setup is only possible to a few fortunate others.

Then the issue of journal publication was discussed. In these cases, the unwritten rule is that the author does not ask for honorarium. Ferenc André noted that it stems from the fact that such a publication is seen as a highly prestigious opportunity as the writing is reviewed by an established editorial team. Regional differences certainly do apply. For instance, for Transylvanian authors, it is more difficult to participate in the Budapest literary life solely because of their geographical distance. It may result in their name and work being less proliferated in Hungary. Overcoming such setbacks falls into the category of invisible work.

Thoughts and memories about the budding writer's career arose. The student poet and writer's summit in Sárvár was an important milestone in André Ferenc's life because there he felt as the others did: like outsiders. The time spent there had such a strong impact on him that he eventually decided to apply for a degree in liberal arts instead of computer science. However, when he is asked about his profession at the hairdresser's, instead of writing, he most often says that he is a teacher. The way he sees it is that, in general, prose writers might still make a living from their work these days, but not poets who hear the sound of coins in all their poem lines.

Ferenc André continued by saying that he agrees with the idea that creative work is supported by financial security in the form of, say, a regular financial allowance. That would mean, in his case, that he would give up some of the work that he does to secure the financial stability to write. It would be helpful because then he would have more time to read in depth (again, the invisible work appears in the form of research) and to spend more time on his drafts.

Photo credits belongs to Cluj-Napoca Festive Book Week.

Disclaimer: This article is the English translation of the original Hungarian article published on Könyves Magazin. 

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