Making Money or Giving Myself to a Labor of Love

Making Money or Giving Myself to a Labor of Love November 18, 2014

6355351769_766503f534_moneyOne half of me wants to live on the edge and try to make this blog into a book. The other half of me knows it’s about time to make enough money to support myself and stop mooching off the hard work of others. After all, I’m 43 years old and the peak of my earning career was in 1996 when I earned around $16,000 working for the US Forest Service. Since then it’s been graduate school, training as a Zen monastic in a communal setting while living on a shoe string, and then being generously supported by my (working) husband. It’s been an interesting life but definitely not a lucrative one.

As most of you normal people know, working full time (for money) leaves little time and energy for rest and family, let alone projects like blogs, book writing, social service, or political action. You may engage in such projects anyway, but I take my hat off to you if you spend a lot of time on these labors of love and also work full time. You’ve got more energy than I do!

Part of what I am exploring on this blog is “a better understanding of what keeps nice people like me from getting more involved when so many beings are suffering,” and of course one of the answers to that is this:

We need to make money. Enough money to live comfortably, take proper care of our families, and save for the future because we can’t count on social safety nets to catch us if we don’t. And, at least in America, most adults need to work full time – or more – to make this kind of money.

What’s sad is not that we need to work, of course. What’s sad is that our need to make money so constrains what we can offer each other and our planet.

Our crazy economic system doesn’t help matters (we’re all working harder for less, the gap between the haves and have-nots is mind-boggling), but this blog is not about social criticism, as much as I’m tempted to offer it. I’ll leave that to people more informed than I am.

I just want to raise the following questions: How big a financial risk should we take in our labors of love? (And it’s a financial risk simply to not save a huge amount of money for retirement.) Where is the line between “not caring too much about money” and being irresponsible? Our service to the world is similarly limited if we’re struggling with poverty, debt, or limited access to health care, so just how much should we take care of ourselves?

Each of us must make our own decisions in this realm of money and responsibility, but perhaps it helps just to acknowledge the material risk and sacrifice that many bodhisattva activities require of us.

In the meantime I contemplate two choices: finally establish myself in some full-time (paying) career at age 43 with almost no CV-relevant work history (a hell of a daunting task), or continue winging it as long as the money holds out and focus on writing this blog and making it into a book? I know many people who would recommend the latter, eyes gleaming with a sense of adventure, but who nevertheless take the more financially responsible path themselves…

Several important things are lining up to suggest it would be a good thing to focus on My Journey of Conscience for the next year or so:

  1. Patheos.com, a national website and blog aggregator for religious and spiritual material, wants to pick up this blog, so it will get a much wider readership;
  2. I’ve got an editor at a major publishing company willing to review a book proposal;
  3. Many people have offered unsolicited and heartfelt encouragement about my blog posts…

However, sadly, none of those things is going to result in much money, and whatever money might come won’t come anytime soon. In a last-ditch effort to try and have my cake and eat it too, I thought I’d try crowd-funding as a way to make some money and continue my labor of love. If you’re one of those financially responsible people, maybe you’d like to live on the edge vicariously by clicking here and contributing?

If this doesn’t work, stay tuned for more blogs about “the ideal meets the actual.” And I know it will all work out one way or another.

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