I recently read this article about how writers never seem to talk about where their money comes from and how that breeds false expectations of success. It was a great piece and I’d encourage you to read it.
One of the main themes of the article was that writers must be able to afford themselves time to write. For some writers, past profits from other books enable them the freedom to write. For the author of the article, it was her husband’s salary that made it possible for her to work on her writing. Others that she mentioned were already wealthy for other reasons before jumping into the world of words.
But each of those cases is vastly different from the average wordsmith’s experience. I would posit that most writers work outside of their novels to put food on their plates. We can’t afford not to. Banks don’t smile and wink extra dollars into your account because they think you are clever with sentences. And if you are ambitiously crafting tomes of fantasy as long or longer than the Bible, you have to be able to support yourself so you can finish them before they are able to be published.
The truth of writing is that most writers can’t support their habits on their writing alone.
But if that’s the case, why do it? Why invest time in something that won’t pay off? Why do a 9-5 job that you may not like (this doesn’t apply to me personally, because I’ve always enjoyed my jobs, but it applies to plenty of other writers I know) in order to work on what some people consider a hobby?
I can only answer for myself, but I think there are a few good reasons for writers to do more than hide in a cabin in the woods and write all alone. There are benefits to being part-time writers:
- Working outside of writing keeps your writing real. If you retreat to your bubble all of the time, you won’t have anything to say that real people can understand.
- You pick up inspiration for characters. Maybe a customer or client rubs you the wrong way. Suddenly you have a bad guy to kill off in your next book. Go with it.
- You needn’t rely on the success of your published work in order to pay your bills. Publishing is a fickle business where less than 1% of what is published goes on to be a bestseller. It is better to be able to consistently pay your bills while writing in your spare moments so you can keep producing more things to publish.
If you are a writer, where does your money come from? I know this is a rude question, but if you read that article, you know that it is one that needs addressed.