This article is for anyone who thinks writing is a magical, luxurious profession. Anyone who feels that being a writer is easy, or an excuse to sit home in their pajamas…
Well, for some of us, that is one perk. But you’re absolutely bonkers to believe that writing is in any way lucrative. Unless, of course, you enjoy spending hours upon hours writing about subjects in which you have no interest whatsoever (And these still tend to pay poorly.)
So if you’re thinking about becoming a writer as a profession, I assume you’re not entering this business with the mindset that you’ll make money. If you are, I urge you to rethink your career, or at the very least, have a back-up plan.
While this certainly may not be the case, I find that most published authors and fellow writers I’ve known, do not exactly come from wealthy backgrounds. And this makes perfect sense, as if one was indeed well-off, certainly they wouldn’t want to take on a profession that would make them virtually no money… The rich always seem to want more.
Along with musicians, painters, sculptors and most designers, writers tend to fall in the “starving artist” category; the category that for some reason holds a beatnik charm and lasting appeal to those outside of these professions. Of course, for those who live a starving artist’s lifestyle, he or she does not exactly savor the fact that being stone broke is perhaps the only consistency. What’s so glamorous about constantly being threatened with eviction, or having to sell off all your possessions, perhaps including your computer, in order to make ends meet? What’s so glamorous about being forced into the stereotype of a homeless drifter, with only the clothes on your back, simply because you’ve chosen a different career… Or maybe because the career chose you.
Fact of the matter is, most writers don’t write for the money or the lifestyle. We write because we feel like we have no other option. We write because we see something wrong with the world, or because we still believe that there’s one piece of credible evidence in this great puzzle of a universe that has been left undiscovered. In a sense, we are detectives, scientists and thrill-seekers; even if what we’ve discovered with intangible proof is that our own lives are devoid of thrill. We seek solace in experience; every experience is a story. We rely heavily on connections cause they’re all we have, and some of us Outsider writers do not even have these. We know that if writing paid to begin with, perhaps we’d have the finances to travel, and then we could produce even more unbelievable work, which could possibly put writers, once again, towards the top of the totem pole. But writing doesn’t pay, so we must learn to be content with being at the bottom of the food chain.
We do still have the hope that if we get past the publishers, editors, and corporate bullsh*t, that maybe a filmmaker or producer will want to see our story on screen; movies are perhaps the only form of art that are suffering in quality but not quantity. Still, some of us can’t even get to this point without endless encounters with the dreaded Writer’s Block; that, or we write hundreds of pages of mindless dribble that repulses us so much that we either trash it or spend a lifetime editing it, refusing to throw out our original idea which seemed like gold at the time, but slowly turned to rust.
Because of all of this, and more adjectives for suffering that only writers can understand, I urge anyone in this field, or thinking of joining this field, to do the following:
Take advantage of every possible opportunity, from press passes to free trips to free material… Free material as in this: Remember that every encounter an interaction is a story. It’s your choice whether or not you yourself are a character in this story.
I took the following advice from a book of letters written by Hunter S. Thompson:
If a writer wants to write as a main profession, and they don’t want to go insane, it’s essential to have a place of solitude; a home base or sane fortress. Hunter would call it a “psychic anchor” or “personal lighthouse.” From personal experience, this is not what people in mainstream society would refer to as the place they grew up, or their parent’s house. No matter how much privacy you may have, if you experience frequent writer’s block at a place you now call “home,” you must take every chance that comes your way of getting out, starting over, and living somewhere new; even if living conditions are seemingly worse off than you currently have now.
Secondly, it’s very wise to have a second hobby; something that won’t frustrate you or take up all your time, but something that will help to ease your frustration and stress. A hobby that will allow you to temporarily take your mind off of writing and all it’s woes. Hunter preferred booze and guns; some might prefer exercise or sex. Perhaps all apply. Or perhaps you could be more “lucrative” in a sense by pulling a George and Martha and toying with all the people around you (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?)
Thirdly, Hunter suggests having someone to “keep the fire burning,” or someone to pass your legacy on to. This is probably the hardest of the “must-haves,” as often most writers live in solitude, and some turn to writing as an outlet for their loneliness.
Lastly, there’s laughter. Often writers, not having a life they can talk about, will write their supposed life or dream-life on paper. Still, no matter how dramatic our stories are, it’s impossible to maintain a straight head if we take ourselves too seriously.
Oh, and how can I forget…
“BEAT THE SYSTEM WITH THEIR OWN RULES.”
With that, I say that my heart goes out truly to every existing writer out there.