Let’s talk about the reality of how to making a living as a writer.
I love writing fiction. I could do it all day, every day, and nothing else (well, that and settling fights between bickering children, but that’s another story). But I don’t.
Yesterday, I read this little post, an extract from an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, author of ‘Eat, Love, Pray’. In it, she recommends that authors not expect to make a living from writing. Instead, she says, they should get a job and learn to live frugally.
I have read other posts about writers who had day jobs. Charles Dickens worked in a factory. Robert Frost was a teacher. Anthony Trollope worked at the post office. And there are countless authors today who keep the financial wheels turning by writing articles and blog posts, given talks and workshops, teaching, and any other thing that they can do with their skills base to ensure an income.
My dream has always been to sit in a rose-covered weatherboard studio and write novels. My reality is a little different, but I’m practical enough to realise that if I had more time to think and dream, I’d probably waste it eating M&Ms and twirling around Facebook.
“I just want to write.” I’ve heard these words so many times from would-be authors who seem to believe that they’re failing if they aren’t working on their novels fulltime. Or feel that they can’t possibly fit the writing in around all the other things that need to be done. My response is always, “Well, why don’t you?”
“It feeds my soul,” they tell me. Yes, I say, but if you don’t feed your body your soul becomes extraneous. Plus, I truly believe that going out into the world, observing all the things, that’s what feeds inspiration. Not sitting in a room, staring at a wall, willing the Muse to arrive.
In my case, I go ‘out into the world’ through teaching, speaking, writing feature articles and corporate newsletters, and interviewing experts for various things. All of which goes into the swill of my subconscious to hopefully come out in some literate form or another down the track. Maybe.
I write when I can and I work when I have to. I am passionate, but I am practical.
I am okay with that. And so, it seems, is Elizabeth Gilbert.
At this time of year, when everyone is considering what they’re doing with their lives, it’s a concept worth thinking about. Fitting your writing in around other things doesn’t make you less of a writer. If anything, it makes you a more passionate writer.
Would you love more writing tips and advice? Check out my book So You Want To Be A Writer: How To Get Started (While You Still Have A Day Job), co-authored with Valerie Khoo and based on our top-rating podcast.