Talent and hard work isn’t enough

Sorry for the delay between posts. I have had to get a job to pay the bills and keep putting food on the table. I knew it would happen eventually, clearly my talent and hard work was never going to be enough. And as so accurately predicted by everyone I told I was going to write full time, the savings from the last ‘employment’ eventually ran out. So, rather than go back into the ‘office’ environment, I needed something that would fit in with the writing. And of course ideally, wouldn’t entail making stupid and lazy rich people look more productive or clever than they actually are.

So I got a temp job re-stacking the shelves in a shop before it opens in the morning, for a smidgen just over the national living wage. Interestingly, much as I did when I left the private sector and joined the charity sector, I have once again managed to shift my income position rather dramatically, this time from being within the top 10% to being in the bottom 10% of the population by income.

I will write about it at some point. But at the moment, I am still struggling to cope with the change in workload, and hours. Hence, why I haven’t posted anything for over a month. In terms of the income drop, it hasn’t been such a shift. In order to save up the money and then live off the savings for so long, I have long since conditioned my lifestyle to living at this level. That is not to say it is easy, far from it. It is an ongoing struggle and an incessant source of stress, but it means I get to write. And of course, would have been and still would be impossible without the ongoing support and charity of family and friends. Like I said, I will write about it at some point.

For now though, one of the things that has recently struck me is the quite widely shared belief among my fellow workers, when they find out that I write in my spare time, that success within the culture and the economy that we live in is based on talent and hard work. A belief that I would argue, is absolutely at odds with all the key studies and evidence. I have written at some length about the way the rich have stitched up the economy and then propagated a cultural narrative around  an illusion of meritocracy, when in reality wealth is still one of the greatest predictors of success. Being born rich, more often than not, means you get to chose whatever job you want to do, and the cultural machine will present your position as being earned through talent and hard work, regardless of whether you are actually any more talented or have worked any harder than anyone else for for it.

To be fair, when I told my friends that I was planning to save as much money as I could in order to write full time, many of them took the time to explain to me how writing doesn’t pay. Some even went as far as to tell me that talent and hard work alone would not be enough. The general consensus, if there was one, was that I would also need luck. However what all of them overlooked was that by luck, what they meant was the luck of being born rich, pale and male. And I can so far testify to the fact that only having two of those three isn’t enough, if you are missing the important one.

The fact is that if you are lucky enough to be born rich, with or without talent and hard work, writing for a living can prove to be very lucrative. That is of course for people from the right sort of backgrounds, and very much within the accepted ideological framework of social commentator. By 2017, out of the 47 winners of the Man Booker prize, just under 80% had been white, nearly 66% were male, just under 60% went to a private school, and a whopping 27% went to either Oxford or Cambridge University. The fact is talent and hard work are not the greatest predictor of literary success, but being born rich is. A fact that makes writing fiction, not entirely unlike journalism. And much as I would like to think that the radical left are more open minded and democratic than the capitalist mainstream, the reality for many writers is very different. But that is quite another story.

Anyway, once again sorry for the delay in posting, but hopefully I will get a little closer to my previous regularity. And in light of the recent mainstream focus on Brexit I thought it would be interesting to repost a review I did of Manuel Castells et al.’ Europes Crises for the Morning Star in February 2008.