Ah, the life of a writer: Sipping wine while cruising along the French Riviera. Attending parties for the rich and famous. Signing you latest books that turned into movies that you directed while you walk down the red carpet on your way to receiving an Academy award for you latest screenplay. Living in your Victorian mansion overlooking the ocean smoking your pipe and leisurely writing up your next New York Times Bestseller already paid in full by your publisher for a cool ten million..... Screeeeeech!
Unless you name is Grisham or Clancy or Crichton, the images of the average writer’s life above are complete and utter rot. Most writers are lucky to make enough money (if any at all) to pay for used clothes from Goodwill or a cup of coffee from the corner coffee shop. If left with only a writer’s income to survive on most writers would be living in cardboard boxes grubbing coins from passers by and peeing through their pants on those cold days into the gutters. Let’s face it, most, and I do mean most, writers squeak out a meager existence or have help from other sources of income. But I am a writer, an ‘artiste’ you say. Yeah, well you may as well throw in nutcase too if you think you are going to make a consistent good living from your craft. I’m not saying you can’t, I’m just saying if you are starting out or even have several books and stories published and are already making a name for yourself, you still better have another source of income up your sleeve or you might find yourself hanging around the back of the Sears Warehouse looking for sturdy cardboard box.
Well what do I do if writing doesn’t pay? Good question. Answer - keep or get a day job (evening employment or midnight shifts will work too). Or, if you are one of the lucky ones you may have a spouse willing to support you and your craft until you can turn those words into gold. Orson Scott Card. Ever hear of him? Well, it wasn’t until he had seven, yes seven, novels published that he received his first royalty check. This is the man who wrote "Ender’s Game" for crying out loud. Orson "$$Ka-Ching$$" Card. Yes, even this now wealthy author struggled to make any real cash in the early years. Piers Anthony is another good example. He wrote, if I recall correctly, fourteen novels before he sold one of them. One good rule of thumb I’ve heard is don’t quit your day job until your writing income equals or surpasses it three years in a row. Sounds good to me. But as I’ve mentioned in previous posts before, and it’s worth repeating again here - making a living from writing takes a very long time and is extremely hard work and the odds are against you. But if you persist and don’t give up, then the payout will not be only the money, but the satisfaction of making it on your own terms using your own creativity. And in the end you may, just may, be one of the ones walking the red carpet or cruising down the Riviera. If making money is your reason to writing, let me tell you there are millions of easier ways to make cash, but having money as your goal is another topic for another day.
But, it doesn’t hurt dreaming about the writing life, but be practical and keep the cash flowing from other sources until you are well established in your writing career.
Now if you will excuse me my Earl Grey is hot and the view of the ocean in the morning from my third floor writing parlor in my Victorian mansion is most exquisite . . . Ummm, actually I have to go to work now. Bye.