Even though, or because, my mother always told me to learn how to do something to earn money, I never extended her advice/admonition into reality. 'Teach school. You'll always have a job and long vacations.' Instead, I took impractical course after impractical course, and never thought, 'I should calm down my personality so that I fit in somewhere.' Almost all the jobs I had after graduation confirmed that I was a congenital misfit in the 9 -- 5 routine. I had to figure out a way to support myself without one.
About two years ago, I taught myself how to index books, which I do free-lance at home at the kitchen table by the window, a reason I'm so attached to the backyard. It turns out to be almost a full-time job; I do about one a week. I've gotten into them and get a curious delight when I come across words/names that begin with z, u, v, j. I play little games with the way information in the books breaks down. Though I work all the time, the indexes allow me a lot of psychological freedom to do my own work. About a third of what I need to live on I earn from photography. I give that noncredit seminar at Mather House and another one at the Harvard Freshman Union. Martha Davidson, an art historian and photography researcher, buys a few pictures a month for textbooks. That's a lovely way to earn money because she picks pictures right off my contact prints. Things I happen to have taken -- the most unlikely image suddenly becomes useful. Magazines call for pictures, too. I give slide shows at colleges (where the usual honorarium is $500), rent out shows of my work (for $250). People buy archive prints (for $50 from January to October and for an incredible $15 from Thanksgiving to Christmas at my wagon]. I'm trying to build up a portrait clientele -- businessmen, women, families. One fantasy is to be like Scavullo and Avedon, Newman. Ralph Hoagland tells me he can find me lots of clients who would like their lovemaking sessions recorded. That sounds attractive.
Enough things happen during a month to piece it all together -- though I never know that in advance. Harvard Square is the kind of community where occasionally I can explain to merchants that I need more time to pay my bills. They all know I'm not going to evaporate overnight. For two years, 1972 -- 1974, I was a Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute, and the stipend from that paid the rent. It was an enormous relief to know in mid-April that I'd have May's rent money on May 1 [as well as a psychological balm -- Harvard at last].
This kind of living does make me nervous when I look at it nakedly. When bills come in, I'm sometimes afraid to open them, letting them pile up until the man from the oil company calls me, Elsaaaaaaaa ...But I talk to Nancy and Abbott/compare notes with them; don't think of how I'll manage when I'm old and feeble.