Christmas & Holiday Gift Ideas for the Photographer | 2014 Edition

Looking at what to get the photographer in your life for Christmas?  Here are some ideas that are sure to make every photographers Christmas season.

Well a camera is a pretty big gift but there are some spectacular options from Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Pentax in 2014.  Take a look below.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Digital SLR Camera with 18-135mm IS STM Lens

Canon 7D Mark II with 18 135 lens and battery grip

It was the announcement that everyone was waiting for this fall and it is now here.  The Canon 7D Mark II features:

  • 20.2 MP CMOS sensor and ISO 100-16000
  • High spped continuous shooting up to 10.0 fps
  • 65-point all cross-type AF system
  • Stunning Full HD video with Custom Movie Servo AF (speed and sensitivity)
  • Dual Pixel CMOS AF enables you to shoot video like a camcorder
People I know who have one (sports and wildlife shooters) have all said that it is everything that Canon said it would be already and feel that once they master the just shipped camera, it would be even better. 

Nikon D750 FX-format Digital SLR Camera

While Canon has their hit camera with the Canon 7D Mark II, Nikon has their own hit with the Nikon D750 which is the successor to the famous D700. 

Nikon D750

Here are the Nikon D750’s highlights.

  • Full frame 24.3 megapixel CMOS image sensor and EXPEED 4 image processor
  • Full HD 60/50/30/25/24p video
  • Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity
  • Shoot up to 6.5 fps at full resolution
  • Pro Video feature set including: Simultaneously record uncompressed and compressed, Manually control ISO, shutter speed and aperture while recording – even use Power Aperture control for smooth iris transitions and Auto ISO for smooth exposure transitions.
  • Compact, lightweight and slim unibody (monocoque) body design with tilting Vari-angle LCD display

 The big news is that while its price is closer to the Nikon D610, its feature set is closer to the Nikon D810.

Pentax K-3 w/ 18-135mm lens

Pentax K-3

I have long been a long time Pentax user and for me, this camera personifies everything that is right with Pentax right now.  

  • 24MP APS-C CMOS sensor, selectable on/off of anti-aliasing filter
  • 8.3 frames per second continuous shooting
  • 27-point AF system with 25 cross sensors and 3 low-light AF sensors
  • ISO 80-51,200
  • 1080 60p/50p/30p/24p HD video (H.264)
It has remarkable build quality that features a weather sealed camera and an increasing number of weather resistant lens that allow you to shoot in any weather conditions.  If you are wondering about Pentax DSLR lens, check out my Pentax lens guide that I put together this summer.

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact System Camera

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Compact Camera

  • 6 MP Four Thirds CMOS sensor with 3-axis sensor shift image stabilization
  • Up to 8 FPS continuous shooting
  • ISO 200-25600
  • 1080/30 fps HD video (H.264/Motion JPEG)
  • Raw and Raw + JPEG shooting

If you are considering making the switch to a mirrorless camera, then you really need to look at the Olympus OM-D lineup, especially the E-M1 and the lower priced E-M10.  Both using the Micro Four/Thirds mount and have in body stabilization.  The combination means there are countless lens from Olympus, Panasonic, and most recently Sigma that can all be used.

Sony RX-100, RX-100 II & RX-100 III

Sony RX-100 II

Sony has three current Sony RX-100 cameras, all at different price points.  All of them are 20 megapixels, compact, and great in low light.  The reason you want one is that they are a remarkable camera to have you at all time and are being used by photographers like Bryan Scott (publishes Winnipeg Love Hate) and CTV’s Tom Podolec who have captured amazing images with the RX-100’s over the last year or so.  The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have raved about the camera.  Basically if you don’t Sony’s RX-100, you didn’t want a compact camera in the first place.

Thinsulate Freehands Photography Gloves

So you get the perfect lens or camera on Christmas morning and then realize that it is -22 degrees Celsius out where you want to try it out.  Wonderful.  Now you have to wait till March.  

There is another solution and that is the Thinsulate Freehands photography gloves.  Keeps your hands warm while giving them the freedom to take the photos you want.

Ricoh Theta

The Theta from Ricoh is a compact and lightweight (3.3 oz.) camera that has a lens on both the front and back, allowing you to take full 360 Degree spherical panoramic images in with one shot and 3 minute videos. The device is synchronized with smartphones, where images can be immediately transmitted via Wi-Fi and viewed with a dedicated free app. The app also allows images to be pinched, swiped or rotated to edit size, shape and composition. Images uploaded to theta360.com can be shared on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, as well as Microsoft Corporation’s Photosynth. IOS and Android free apps for viewing and capturing images.

Black Rapid Camera Strap

Black Rapid Camera Strap

There is a better way to carry your camera and it is a Black Rapid strap

 Vintage Multi-Color Neck Strap

Vintage Multi Coloured Neck Strap

A great stocking stuffer for the photographer on your list.  It features an old school colourful design which is a lot more exciting then the strap that came with your camera.

Wireless Remote

No matter how good your camera is, it’s the actual shot that matters–and sometimes that means needing to time things just right, especially if the photographer also plans to be in the shot. While most cameras have a built-in timer, using the wireless remote lets you pick your moment–its 16-foot wireless range gives you the flexibility to snap the shutter right when you need it, even if you’re not behind the camera.

Olympus 50mm Lens

Often the most affordable lens in any camera lens lineup, it is a great gift for anyone still using their kit lens.
 
12 Inch Digital Photo Frame
 
This frame features a hi-res SVGA screen with LED back lighting. Importantly the frame will also play your MPEG-4 / .AVI video, JPEG photos. When the frame activates after sensing movement it can play either your photos (from where it left off in the slideshow) or videos. It has a generous 4GB memory, housed in a very small and portable USB thumb drive so you can conveniently move photos from your computer to your frame. Combined with a simple, clear remote control, it’s a breeze to get started and with a 12 inch screen, your photos will stand out in every room.
SanDisk Ultra
Everyone needs another memory card (or two).  Just make sure you know what kind they need.
 
WD My Passport Ultra HD
 
They are backing up their photos aren’t they?  That’s what I thought.  They will need one of these asap.

I Shoot People

I Shoot People

Perfect gift for the portrait photographer on your list.

Adobe Lightroom 5

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5

Best photo editing software on the planet and you can get it for PC or Mac.  Amazing gift if they are still using Picasa or iPhoto.

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit

CowboyStudio Photography/Video Portrait Umbrella Continuous Triple Lighting Kit with Three Day Light CFL Bulbs, Three Stands, Two Umbrellas, and One Carrying Case For Product, Portrait, and Video Shoots

This kit provides 375 Watts of continuous lighting and it is a very good start for beginners. Entire kit sets up in minutes, and very easy to operate.  An incredible gift to someone who is thinking of setting up an in home or portable studio, a documentary project or just wants some good lights at their disposal.

CowboyStudio Table Top Photo Studio Light Tent Kit
 
The Optex Portable Photo Studio Kit is a bright photo tent with diffuser screens and dual concave reflectors that provide soft, daylight balanced light. A double-sided backdrop provides a background choice of blue or grey for optional contrast with light or dark objects.The portable kit includes a photo tent (16” cube), double sided backdrop (blue/grey), 2 light fixtures, bulbs and mini tripod.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS25 16.1 MP Tough Digital Camera with 8x Zoom

Panasonic TS25

Sometimes it’s best you not take your DSLR with you (like into the pool or ocean).  I personally love this camera.  Small form factor, ruggedized and it takes great photos.

Polaroid Cube
This 1080p Full HD camera is only an inch by an inch.  Designed to go everywhere that you go, it is only $99.  After reading it’s specs, you understand why it is the bestselling underwater camcorder on Amazon (beating out the GoPro and Sony rivals)

AmazonBasics Backpack for SLR/DSLR Cameras and Accessories

AmazonBasics Backpack Camera Bag

You can pay a lot for a camera bag from ThinkTank, Kata, or LowePro or you can get this bag from Amazon for $30.  Your choice.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas Gift Guide for the Outdoorsman (and women) | 2014 Edition

In case you are shopping for the great outdoorsman, here are a list of suggestions for those who often prefer to outdoors rather than inside. Check out the other Christmas gift ideas that have been posted this season.

Left and Right Handed Slingpacks from MEC

Slingpack from Mountain Equipment Co-Op

All three of us have sling packs from MEC and they work as great daypacks.  They each have a water bottle, flashlight, notebook and pens in them all of the time.  When it is time to go, we toss in our phones, iPods, headphones, snacks and a compact camera and we are ready to go.  They are big enough to carry what you need yet small enough to bring along with you anywhere.  We really like them.

Pelican 1050 waterproof case

Pelican 1050 waterproof case

These are great camera/GPS/iPod cases. They are water proof, padded, floatable, and strong enough to take a lot of abuse in the back of your trunk or any backpack. While you may not use it when you head to the park, you will use them when you are packing for a trip and don’t want your iPod, camera, or phone to be crushed. They are pretty much indestructible which means that of all of the things you have to worry about, this isn’t one of them.

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sport Shoes

Vibram FiveFingers Komodo Sports Shoes

The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles, and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised. The Vibram Five Fingers shoes are designed to simulate walking barefoot while protecting your feet like shoes do. If you have any questions, check out the reviews on Amazon.

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Leatherman Skeletool CX

Now you’re ready to lighten your load and boost your survival skills — with Leatherman’s Skeletool. At a mere 5 ounces the new, full-sized multitool keeps weight and volume to a minimum without sacrificing quality and true functionality, and that’s what the Skeletool is all about. Many multitools have multiple options, but they’re often heavier — and they’re loaded with more features than most people actually need on a regular basis. Conversely, pocket knives are light and streamlined, but they render themselves useless when the task calls for a more versatile tool. Enter the new Skeletool platform, offering minimal weight, compact size and endless capabilities. And with the Skeletool’s integrated, removable pocket clip, you can easily clip this tool onto a belt, a pack, or a vest — with no sheath or tote required.

Cammenga Lensatic Compass

Cammenga Lensatic Compass

This is the Rolls Royce of compasses. It has been used by U.S. troops, foreign militaries, law enforcement, and special forces for years. A total of seven Tritium light sources provide readability in total darkness for 10 years without external power or the need to “recharge” using a flashlight.

Sony HDR-AS100VR POV Action Video Camera with Live View Remote

If you are a cyclist, you want this.

Use the built-in GPS with the free PlayMemories Home software to track your speed and performance. Location, trail and speed information add more layers to your ability to analyze your performance that can be captured and displayed on your video.  Take a look.

GPS overlay on your video

The camera itself is splash proof but it does come in a waterproof case.  Unlike the GoPro, the Sony HDR-AS100 is image stabilized which means smoother video no matter how rough of ride you are taking.

Sony HDR-AS100VR

Polaroid Cube
Huge, out-of-the-box fun. In little more than 1 cubic inch. – Standing at just 35mm, the Polaroid CUBE is here to prove that the best things do indeed come in small packages. This tiny action camera supports Micro SD cards up to 32 GB, and is ready to capture your most exciting moments in full HD video or highresolution images. So if you’re living a life that’s fit for film, make the CUBE your constant companion. It is weatherproof and shockproof, and more than capable of handling anything you throw at it.
Jetboil Flash Personal Cooking System
The Jetboil Flash cooking system utilizes the same efficient design as the now classic Personal Cooking System (PCS) but adds the additional convenience feature of an external temperature indicator. Designed to capture and focus heat more efficiently than traditional cooking systems, the Flash brings two cups of water to a boil in only two minutes. The lining also houses a color change window that alerts you to when the contents are hot. A sip-through lid further helps insulate the contents of the cooking cup and prohibits spills. The protective plastic bottom of the cup can be removed for use as a small bowl or measuring device.

MSR Pocket Rocket Stove

If the Jetboil Personal Cooking System isn’t what you are looking for, check out the MSR Pocket Rocket stove. The PocketRocket backpacking stove from MSR provides full cooking function in an incredibly efficient form. Barely noticeable in your pack, it delivers precision flame control from torch to simmer while the Wind Clip wind shield boosts efficiency in breezy conditions. The PocketRocket stove’s diminutive size is also the foundation of a solid emergency kit for home or trail.

Double Nest Hammock

Double Nest Hammock

The DoubleNest allows room for one, two, three, or however you decide to pack 400lbs. The DoubleNest seats more than one person comfortably and is essential for family adventures. The DoubleNest still packs down to the size of a grapefruit, so there is no excuse to be without your ENO hammock.

Outdoor Coffee Press

Outdoor Coffee Press

Now there is no reason to bring that horrible tasting Starbucks Via coffee with you when you go camping or hiking. Instead bring some fresh ground coffee or loose leaf tea with you and make some excellent coffee when ever you want with this outdoor coffee press. Of course you won’t bring a bean grinder with you on most trips but it gives you an idea of what it takes to make a good cup of coffee while on the road. Of course you need something to drink it from. You may want to check out some excellent stainless steel coffee mugs/beer mugs to drink from.

Zippo Hand Warmer

Zippo Hand Warmer

The Zippo Hand Warmer is a rugged, metal hand warmer with a sleek, thin design so it easily fits into your pocket. The hand warmer is virtually odorless (great for hunters) and stays warm for up to 12 hours. Plus, it’s reusable with Zippo lighter fluid and includes a convenient filler cup and warming bag. Whether you’re skiing, tailgating at the game, hunting, sledding, or enjoying any other cold-weather activity, keep a Zippo Hand Warmer in your pocket and keep your fingers toasty warm.

Garmin eTrex 20 Worldwide Handheld GPS Navigator

Garmin eTrex 20

Garmin’s eTrex GPS series offers reliable satellite navigation, making it a favorite of hikers, hunters, and geocachers. The eTrex 20 is equipped with a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, a 2.2-inch color display, and ships with a worldwide basemap with relief. Add a wide array of detailed topographic, marine, and road maps, and start mapping out your next adventure.

The Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Black Diamond Orbit Lantern

Designed for ounce-conscious backpackers and climbers, the Black Diamond Orbit lantern packs 45 lumens of bright, non-glaring light in an ultra-portable package. A DoublePower LED (1-watt) works with Black Diamond’s dual reflector system and frosted globe to illuminate everything from tent-bound reading to pre-dawn racking. A collapsible, double-hook hang loop attaches to tent ceilings and tree branches alike. Mark and I both have one and they are simply amazing. They are highly rated on REI, MEC, and Amazon.com and are loved by all that use them. Whether you are a camper, hiker, or even a family who needs a safety light in the car, these are a must have.

Filzer UFO Light

Filzer UFO light

Alert vehicles and help keep track of your dog at night. The UFO light is designed specifically for runners, hikers and dogs. The light easily attaches to 1″ webbing, dog collars, clothing, etc… with a small carabineer. Five red LEDs put out highly visible red light in three modes – steady, flash and rotate. Its waterproof design makes it ideal for any weather.

Hydro Flask

It’s hard to get excited about a water bottle but Outside Magazine did.  Here is what they said about it.
Standing out among the dozens of hydration products that pass through our doors every year is a challenge. Hydro Flask made an impression with a next-day shipment of its insulated stainless-steel bottles, which arrived with ice inside. In summer. That functionality—which works equally well keeping liquids piping hot—paired with simple, good-looking design won us over.

Christmas Present 21

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

Christmas & Holiday Gift Guide for Teenagers | 2014 Edition

What do you get for the teenaged boy on your Christmas list.  The easy way out is cash and gift cards.  We aren’t going to take the easy route out.  We are doing this the hard way and come up with a list that any teenager would love.

Asus MeMo Pad 7

$150 for a cutting edge tablet?  I’m okay with that.  The Asus MeMo tablet runs a 1.33 GHz Quad-Core Intel Atom processor, Android 4.4 KitKat, more than enough RAM to run the latest applications and 16 gb of storage for videos, music, and homework.  It also has a .3 megapixel front facing camera and a 2 megapixel rear facing camera

Asus MeMo Tablet

While you are at it, pick up a case, Bluetooth keyboard, Micro SD card and speaker.

Pentax K-50 DSLR

We gave Mark my old Pentax K-x to him for his birthday and he loves it.  The advantage of Pentax over other DSLR’s is build quality.  The K-50 has over 80 water seals in it.  This means that the teen you are shopping for can take it far more places and adventures than other DSLRs.  The other advantage is the amazing price.  At under $500 (with a 18-55mm lens) it is one of the least expensive DSLR’s out there right now.

Pentax K-50

The PENTAX K-50 is a mid-level DSLR with fast, advanced functionality, all wrapped up in bold colors. Featuring specifications of a top level DSLR, enjoy a 16 megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, fast continuous shooting at six frames per second, high sensitivity shooting up to ISO 51200, 100% field of view, innovative in-body shake reduction, and an advanced auto focus module with four optional focusing screens, not to mention the PENTAX-original weather-sealing. Also enjoy full 1018p HD video capture, and eye-fi card compatibility for fast and easy image sharing.

At the end of the day, you aren’t buying your teen a DSLR for them, you are buying it for the family time you will spend together shooting it.  This summer Mark, Oliver, Wendy, and I went for countless walks, hikes, and adventures together for no other reason than to shoot from photos and see what we could see…. together.

If you are wondering about available lens for Pentax, check out my guide to Pentax DSLR lens that I wrote this summer.

Ricoh WG-4
If you have a smaller budget, this Ricoh WG-4 is a great adventure proof camera.  It’s waterproof, crushproof, and has a built in GPS to record where you are when you take the photo.  It has a quick f2 lens, 16 megapixel CMOS sensor.  It is the perfect option to take into the backwoods, on a long road trip, or just attaching to your pack for a day out.  Like all WG series cameras, it comes with a wide series of mounts so it can attached to your bike, car, or helmet.  Not only are you getting a great camera but with the mounts you are getting many of the capabilities that a GoPro offers.

Sennheiser HD201 Headphones

There is a good choice that your teen has an iPod or phone that plays music already.  The music is great but one overlooked thing is what do you play it on.  Sennheisser headphones are a great bet.  The Sennheiser HD201 Stereo Headphones prove to be a low priced alternative to high-end studio headphones.With great clarity, the Sennheiser HD201 headphones are the ideal entry into the world of powerful stereo sound. These excellent headphones also boast great attenuation of ambient noise and outstanding comfort at an affordable price.

Sennheisser HD201

JVC Xtreme Xplosives Headphones
If you are on a budget (and who isn’t) this Christmas, here are some fabulous looking and sounding headphones by JVC at an affordable price.  They are for are for people who demand powerful, dynamic deep bass sound from their headphones which kind of describes every teenager I know.
The OontZ Angle
One of the most popular and wished for items on Amazon.com.  Brought to you by Cambridge Soundworks, this Angle is the latest in a line of amazing and affordable speaker systems.  The Oontz Angle comes in many color options and is 5.3 inches wide, 2.7 inches high, and 3 inches deep. It weighs 9 ounces, which makes it a lightweight unit.  For $40 it provides excellent size, portability and most importantly, it sounds good.

Turcom Graphic Drawing Tablet 8 X 6 Inches

Turcom Graphics Drawing Tablet

Tursion is making tablets affordable for use by anyone, not just artists. This high-quality Tursion drawing tablet is priced just right, so everyone can enjoy the benefits of a graphic tablet. It includes several software utilities, such as PenSigner and PenMail, which allows you to use handwritten signatures, adding a personal touch to what is usually thought of as an impersonal medium. Easy to install and to use,

We gave one to Mark last year for his birthday and he has loved it.  It works with almost any kind of Windows XP/Vista/7/8 software has allowed him expand is skills and talents as an artist.

The 6 Most Important Decisions You'll Ever Make
 
From Sean Covey, the author of the international bestseller The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, this bestselling follow-up book builds upon the legacy of the 7 Habits and shows teens how to make smart choices about the six most crucial choices they’ll face during these turbulent years.
 
The challenges teens face today are tougher than at any time in history: academic stress, parent communication, media bombardment, dating drama, abuse, bullying, addictions, depression, and peer pressure, just to name a few. And, like it or not, the choices teens make while navigating these challenges can make or break their futures.

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel 104-Piece All Media Easel Artist Set

Royal & Langnickel Sketching and Drawing Easel Set is a comprehensive 104 piece collection of artist materials ideal for the beginner, student, or artist. This set features a wide assortment of pencils, pastels, and paints fitted into a convertible, two-drawer chest that opens to reveal a third tray of product. The storage chest converts into a sturdy table-top easel. An outstanding collection of tools for your studio or an ideal gift for an artist or serious art student.

Acer Aspire E-11 11.6-Inch Laptop 

There is always going to be a debate between Windows Netbooks and Google Chromebooks.  The Acer Aspire makes a compelling argument for the Windows Netbook.  Check out these specs.

  • 11.6" HD Widescreen ComfyView™ LED-backlit Display: (1366 x 768) resolution; 16:9 aspect ratio
  • Intel® Celeron® N2840 Dual-Core Processor 2.16GHz with Intel® Burst Technology up to 2.58GHz
  • Windows 8.1 with Bing
  • Intel® HD Graphics
  • 2048MB DDR3L SDRAM Memory
  • 32GB internal storage
  • Digital Media Card Reader – Secure Digital™ (SD) Card
  • 802.11b/g/n Wireless LAN
  • Bluetooth® 4.0
  • Acer Crystal Eye HD Webcam
  • High Definition Audio Support
  • Two Built-in stereo speakers
  • 1- USB 2.0 Port
  • 1- USB 3.0 Port
  • 1- HDMI™ Port with HDCP Support
  • 3-cell Lithium-Ion Battery (2640mAh)
  • Up to 5-hours battery life
  • 2.84 lbs.

Acer Aspire E-11 Netbook

Another cool part of these Aspire E-11’s is that they don’t have fans so they are completely silent.

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

Celestron PowerSeeker Telescope

You aren’t just giving a gift when you give a telescope as a gift.  You are opening up the wonders of the universe.   All of Celestron’s PowerSeekers include a full range of eyepieces plus a 3x Barlow lens that provides an increase in viewing power hundreds of times greater than that of the unaided eye!

Tony Hawk Skateboard
 
Fender guitar and amp
If he wants to be a rock star, what better way to get him started than with a Squire guitar and amp by Fender?  It comes with an electric guitar, amp, bag, strap, cables, and picks.  Basically everything he will need to rock out in 2015.
With the Selphy CP910 Wireless Compact Photo Printer, celebrating your special memories has never been more convenient. Lightweight and compact in size, the Selphy CP910 is easy to take just about anywhere. But it’s more than just portable; it’s also loaded with features, like Portrait Image Optimize, which allows you to relive those cherished moments with beautiful and long-lasting borderless 4” x 6” photo prints. What’s more, it’s AirPrint enabled, making wireless printing from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch almost effortless. No drivers are needed! And Mobile Device Printing allows images on compatible Windows RT devices to be sent directly to the printer as well. Plus, with its new Access Point Mode, the Selphy CP910 allows you to directly connect your wireless camera or smart device without the need of a network.

Christma Wish Guides

You can also find all of the rest of the 2014 Christmas Gift Guides online here.  There is a lot of great ideas for all of the important people in your life.  Good luck with your shopping and have a great holiday season!  Oh yeah, if I missed anything or you have any thoughts, let me know in the comments.

The more you write, the less you make

It’s not easy being a writer

When author Richard Flanagan finished his latest novel, relative poverty forced him to contemplate getting a job in the mines in northern Australia. His Booker Prize win has spared him a life underground for the time being, but he did not waste the opportunity to acknowledge in his speech that “writing is a hard life for so many writers.”

And it’s only getting worse, as Elizabeth Renzetti wrote wrote recently in these pages. Twelve thousand dollars – that’s the figure the Writers’ Union of Canada estimates as the average annual income writers make from their writing in this country. I remember what it’s like to live on $12,000. You live in a shabby apartment furnished with hand-me-downs from your parents and garbage-picked gems, you allot $25 a week for food and you wear a borrowed dress when you’re invited to a gala fundraising dinner for writers at a fancy hotel. You take the subway there. If you are in your late 20s, as I was then, it’s fine, you make do because you are doing what you love and most people don’t have that extraordinary privilege.
You don’t squander that privilege. You work your ass off. And hopefully you’re rewarded for that effort. It worked for me, as it did for many writers of my generation, perhaps the last for whom it was possible to live off their writing. In Britain, writers’ incomes have fallen by 30 per cent in the past eight years, collapsing to what one Guardian headline called “abject” levels.

So many writers I know are looking back at this point in mid-life and saying, “I had a good run.” A good run saw us earn increasingly bigger if still modest advances. (Yes, $75,000 sounds like a lot, but when it takes five years to complete a book and your agent is taking a cut of 15 per cent, you’re still below the poverty line if this is your sole source of income.) Publishers were once able to invest in a career, with income from bestsellers offsetting the less sensational works in a catalogue. Now, every book has to be a winner. If you fail to earn out your advance through sales, your next advance will be lower, or perhaps, as has become increasingly the case among my mid-career contemporaries, you will lose your publishing home.

Writing seems to have become one of the few careers where the more experienced and proficient you become over the years, the less you are compensated. And the humiliations of this are great. It does become difficult to uphold belief in the worth of your work. And since this is work intrinsically tied to one’s sense of self, it becomes difficult to uphold a sense of self-worth. It takes ego and adrenalin to work in solitude, through years of confusion and uncertainty, in the writing of a book. If you don’t believe in it, no one else will. Of course, there is reward in art for art’s sake, but few can sustain morale, motivation or mortgage on an income of private aesthetic fulfilment.