I post a lot about creative writing, because it’s what I love. But it’s not what pays the bills. I work as a Technical Writer. I know some of you are young and looking toward the future with starry eyes and crossed fingers and diplomas at the ready. Some of you, like the me of Before Now and Still Now, want to write books and become a published author.
Yet if you look at some getting published statistics (and some bestseller statistics), it’s highly unlikely to live off of being a novelist. Don’t despair! If you’re in it for the money, you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
Being a writer is about being so consumed by telling a story that you come home from your ten-hour shift and your seven hours of school, and you write for two hours. Being a writer is always having a pen and paper stuffed in your pocket or your laptop on permanent standby with Word open. Being a writer is risking your smartphone’s life because you need need need to write down that clever one-liner while you’re rinsing shampoo from your hair.
In short, it ain’t about the money.
That doesn’t mean you have to live in your parents attic surrounded by the dusty relics of a childhood full of potential. It just means you need to approach adulthood like an adult.
Not to cast aspersions on the dreamy-eyed, but these are your goals in life:
- Don’t die.
- Eat food.
- Live somewhere.
- Acquire money.
- Have a stable, safe environment.
- Have a secure footing financially.
- Achieve your dreams.
I’m sorry that achieve your dreams isn’t at the top of the list. It can’t be. You need to live, eat, live some more, and survive before you can fulfill your dreams.
Have an analogy: If you dream about reaching the top of Mount Everest, you aren’t going to get very far without oxygen. Oxygen tanks are important when you’re in the thinner atmospheric levels of this here planet.
You need to meet the necessities of life before you can start reaching for the more valuable things.
You don’t have to get a boring, stupid, no-good job. But that doesn’t mean you can’t look for a job that involves or fulfills your dreams in some way.
For me, I want to be a published author. I want to entertain people, to delve into the minds of other people and emerge with a story. What, then, am I doing? I’m working as a Technical Writer. I’m paying bills, buying groceries, playing Donkey Kong, and somehow still haven’t bought internet. And I’m writing.
I spend a third of my time reading manuals written by engineers. I spend a third rewriting and understanding that same writing. I spend a third in excel sheets tracking data, because I’m organized and awesome like that.
Then, when I get home, I write some more.
I work on revisions, stories, query letters, plot holes, character development, and researching how fatal is a fall from different heights on my smartphone. I write and write and write and write.
And I don’t get tired of it. Someone once told me that if I got a job writing, then I would get bored with it. What was once fun would become hard work, and I would lose my passion for it.
Well, that person was a cynical creature. I love what I do. And everything I learn at work, I use to fuel my experience and work at home. And everything I write at home, I use to fuel and improve my work at work.
I know it sucks when you tell people you want to be an author and they say, “But what’s your fallback? What’s your REAL job? What pays the bills?”
And it sucks because we want to be able to be defined and subsist on the products of our passions. Yet most authors DO have a paycheck to complement the royalties. That doesn’t mean you can’t find something you love just as much!