The Fuck Does This Make Money: “it didn’t seem fair to shoot the social media manager”
From Maddy Court, also known as @xenaworrierprincess
“The Fuck Does This Make Money?” is a Q+A about Money and Feelings. This Q+A is with Maddy Court, who wrote The Ex-Girlfriend of My Ex-Girlfriend Is My Girlfriend. She’s also known as @xenaworrierprincess.
The fuck do you make money? What do you spend it on?
I’m a writer. My first book comes out in May, but most all of my income comes from work I self-publish. I write a newsletter and sell zines. I do a lot of oddball editing, research, and consulting work. I run a niche lesbian meme Instagram called @xenaworrierprincess. There was a brief bubble when companies would pay for funny posts or meme content, but it’s really dried up in the past year or two. A LGBTQ media company recently offered me $75 for 3 memes. I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves, but it didn’t seem fair to shoot the social media manager.
I feel a lot of scarcity when it comes to money and my income is unpredictable, so I try to live on very little and save for leaner times. This past year, vet bills have been my biggest expense and source of money anxiety. One of my dogs died of a brain tumor in December. My other dog, Louis, tore his ACL and is getting surgery in a few days. The surgery plus medications, x-rays, and follow-up exams will be over $4000, but what can I do? He needs his leg!! The vet said Lou will likely need a second surgery in the next year because once dogs injure one knee, they start relying more on the other knee and the strain often causes that knee to blow, too. I’m tearfully saving for round two.
How do you spend your time? How much of your time “makes money”?
I wake up between 5 and 7 and let my dog out. Then I get back into bed with coffee, seltzer, and a plate of toast and write. Morning is my sharpest time, so I work on my novel because it’s my scariest and most overwhelming project. I write until I need a break, which is usually around noon. Then I make lunch, run errands, or take my dog to the dog park. Right now I’m doing a writer’s residency, so I’m surrounded by woods and walking trails. It’s a beautiful place to get lost and think.
For the rest of the afternoon, I answer emails, do random organizational tasks, mail zines, and all my other work. The past few months, I’ve been doing a lot of the pre-release work for my book—planning promotions, doing interviews, emailing with my agent and the book’s publicists, writing thank you notes to people who helped out, etc. It’s been a bonkers amount of time and energy. I didn’t plan for it because this is my first book, but next time I’ll be ready.
I struggle a lot with burnout. As soon as I feel like I’m hitting a wall, I try to disengage from work completely. If I don’t explicitly tell myself that I’m done working for the day, I’ll just keep trying to write and never get the reset that I need. When I’m not working, I’m the most extreme version of a Boring Lesbian. I love to draw and talk to my friends on the phone. I take baths, go to the grocery store, and look at Zillow. Right now I’m reading Glennon Doyle’s new book, Untamed. I recently fell in love and started spending big chunks of time with another person for the first time in AGES. It’s weird to balance a relationship with my own life and work, but she makes me really happy.
So how much of my time actually makes me money? That’s so hard to say. It’s so indirect. Not enough.
How do your values guide how you make money?
I want writers and artists to get paid because our work has obvious, immeasurable value. With the Ex-Girlfriend book, Kelsey and I really wanted to bring in other queer creators to respond to questions. We didn’t have a lot of money to work with, but we were able to redistribute a lot of our advance (I think a lot of people are surprised by how little authors make from books, and that authors are responsible for paying for guest contributors, illustrators, fact checkers, sensitivity readers—all the things that a book needs to be great—out of their own advances). Our hope is that the book will sell a lot of copies, and we’ll be able to pay everyone an additional bonus.
Tell me about your class background without telling me your class background.
As a kid, I absorbed a lot of anxiety and scarcity surrounding money before I even understood what money was. I went to a small liberal arts college and felt poor compared to a lot of my friends. Now that I’m older and have more perspective, I can see that I’ve always had an abundance of food, care, and educational opportunities.
Tell me about a decision you’ve made about how you make money you’re proud of.
As a working class artist, turning down money can scary and painful. I never take it for granted when I’m able to turn down an opportunity that seems sus or boring.
It means a lot that my career provides autonomy and independence. I can plan my days however I want. I can always finagle a day off if I need one. After his surgery, Louis will need around-the-clock care and supervision for 4 weeks. I’m able to do that without asking a boss for permission. This isn’t what work looks like for anyone in my family, so I’m immensely grateful.
Tell me about a decision you’ve made about how you make money you’re NOT proud of.
Money saved is money earned and I was really, really stupid with money in my early twenties. I had a great job in college,and I would spend all my paychecks immediately on the stupidest shit—wigs, cranberry vodka, a printer for my room (printing was FREE in the library), a set of espresso cups (I lived in a dorm?? I didn’t own an espresso machine because I didn’t drink espresso). I didn’t understand money at all. I promised my friend I would visit her during her semester abroad and only managed to save a few hundred dollars before blowing it all on clothes. I didn’t even know how much my student loans were until after I graduated. If I had been more deliberate with my money, I could have made a big dent in my debt while still in school.
Tell me about a choice around how you make money that you know was the right decision, but you still feel weird about.
I often feel guilty about not having a “real job.” I think the structure and stability of a 9 to 5 would be great for me in a lot of ways, but I also know I would be miserable. It’s a lot more rewarding to work for myself and find new ways to use my weird skill set.
What’s something you were surprised by when you first started making money this way?
That it was even possible!! I didn’t grow up around artists, or people who were professionally creative. It’s very wild to me that I get paid to think and write.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel afraid or anxious (not mandatory!)
The possibility of medical debt makes me really anxious. My ACA insurance is garbage-- it’s expensive ($150 a month), difficult to navigate, and barely covers anything. Yesterday I was hiking up some step terrain and the ground was still icy in some places, and I was overcome with intrusive thoughts about slipping and breaking my ankle. I worry a lot about getting in a car accident. I could go on and on, haha.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel hopeful.
I had so many hopes for 2020 that just went up in flames. Money-wise, this year was a real squeaker. I’m going to be okay, though. I have everything I need and that makes me feel hopeful.