If you want to make money in the Catholic media, don't become a writer. Become an editor or a fundraiser or part of a sales team, or anything that looks like a 9-5 job that pays more than minimum wage. Become a graphic artist. Design computer programs. Become tech support.
Of course, if you are are a writer, the kind of person who would rather write than do anything else, then you rejoice whenever anyone buys one of your pieces, and you are pleased when you get a column in a Catholic paper or magazine. I am very grateful that there are Catholic editors out there--probably not terrifically well paid themselves--who like my stuff enough to offer me space in their journals. A column here and a column there and a piece on this here and an interview there eventually add up--especially as, unlike Mark Shea, I have not been blessed with children.
Stop me if I've told this story too often, but when I gave some lectures in Poland--and Canada's Mr Coren was quite right when he told me appearances make more money than writing--a shy young lady asked me how to become a writer. I asked her when she had started writing. She hadn't started writing. It was just an idea she had--a wish to become a writer. At risk of being a total writer cliché, I told her not to become a writer. If you're a writer, you write. You just do. And the pay is terrible.
I didn't tell her that the writing that pays best is not the best writing. My mother is addicted to softcover fiction, and yesterday I began reading one of the books she took out of the library. It is set in Sheffield and is about three women, a Bridget Jones knock-off whose boyfriend keeps a spreadsheet rating their acts of intimacy, an empty nester who discovers her husband in bed with a blonde, and a young woman whose fun life of working in joe jobs all around the world comes to an unwelcome end when
It's a bestseller. The author is bestselling. She's very talented at what she does, which is write that sort of women's novel. I would like to be able to do that too--quite apart from the money, it would be fun-- except that I read Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner and Possession by A.S. Byatt, which ruined me for "OMG," typed Alice into her mobile. She didn't know what else to say. Tony had been hinting about this for awhile now. Maybe she was just a prude. Sandra's attitude was that she would do anything once, but Alice retained a sense that there were things a girl who had once won a blue ribbon at the Chuffing Village Gymkhana just should not do.
Back to Mark Shea. I wasn't a regular reader of his stuff, since he wrote about issues of more interest to Americans than to anyone else, but I liked him at his most cheerful, and I was pleased when he linked to Seraphic Singles and echoed my plea to the Catholic men of the world not to talk about chastity and sex on the first date. At the time, I thought of him and Father Z as the kings of the Catholic blogosphere. I think Mark liked that. (Father Z didn't write back.)
My hope for Mark Shea--keeping in mind that I have no pony in the U.S. horse race--is that he gets a job in the mainstream media. There are serious difficulties for Catholic laymen whose livelihoods come entirely from the Catholic media vineyard, and Mark Shea's Catholic career is proof of that.