I’m an author and writing is my job. It took me writing and publishing two books before I could proclaim this out loud to another person. I feared what they would think and say, which inevitably was and still is, something like, ‘And you can make a living from doing that?’
Sometimes it’s not even a question and more of a statement: ‘So it must be tough to make money as a writer.’
As I seem to be addressing this question (statement) at least once a week, I figured I would save time and write my response instead. After all, I've got work to do.
So here’s the thing:
There's a view among some that writing, as well as with other creative professions, isn't s real job or career. Rather, it's a hobby and something you do outside of ‘work hours’. This idea is based on the likelihood, or unlikelihood, of making money from such endeavours. Even though billions of dollars are spent every year on books, theatre tickets, music downloads, and art. There's a perception that creative endeavours are not serious careers but a risk, an indulgent, a whim. I’ve been writing books for five years and still there are some who think I spend my days hanging out in cafes all day drinking coffee. The theory is if you can't make money from something, or you're not making money from it, then it's not a job, and it's certainly not a career.
I see it differently.
When I'm met with the question about my capacity to earn a decent living from writing, I make the following three points:
First, I never hang out in cafes all day. Half a day maybe. And never more than two coffees.
Second, my decision to become an author was not based on how much money I could make. Instead, it was based on my passion for telling stories, a sense of purpose for telling them and ultimately, my love of writing. I’m my happiest when I’m writing, so why wouldn’t I spend as much time as possible doing this and earn a living from it? Yes, I intend to earn a lot of money from writing. Money is awesome and I love the perks that come from having it. But it takes time.
Third, even if we left JK Rowling out of the equation, there are plenty of authors making pretty good coin from writing. Sure, they are big names - Stephanie Meyers, James Patterson, Danielle Steel, Stephen King, Jackie Collins, John Grisham, Elizabeth Gilbert, Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts - but I’m not aware of to many jobs with the potential to earn into the hundreds of millions of dollars. And if we did throw JK Rowlings into the mix? This is a woman who became a billionaire from writing a story about a wizard!
What I've learned since boldly claiming ‘I am an author’ is no one is going to validate this choice for me. Not in the same way they would if I told them I was the Communications Director for a multi-national on a six figure salary. When it comes to creative professions, unfortunately, society only validates creative careers once you’ve ‘made it’, once you’ve achieved a certain level of success. Then you can write and paint and sing to your little heart’s content.
It's different for a lawyer or a doctor or a CEO. Validation is instant and ongoing for as long as they hold that particular title. You can run a company into the ground but as long as you're the CEO you're still invited into Chairmans Club. A good job with an impressive title will always win you society's nod of approval. Although it may not make you happy.
For me, writing is my real job and I work hard like everyone else. Not that it feels like hard work because I love it. I might not be making millions or thousands or even much money just yet but that doesn’t diminish the worth and value of it. And because my real job might not pay the bills right now simply means I have to supplement my income with other work until it does. Yet regardless of what I'm earning at any given moment, writing is my job. And it's a very real one.
Now, it's not anyone’s responsibility to make me feel more comfortable about my choices by agreeing with or approving of them. Nor is it my responsibility to make others comfortable by buying into an outmoded idea that a job is only valid if it pays the bills. There are many writers and other creatives earning a wonderful income from their art. This is not a new thing. It's time we stopped questioning creative pursuits and supported those courageous enough to pursue them. Because it's not easy and it does take courage.
So next time you're chatting with a writer, or any kind of professional maverick, instead of asking 'So can you actually make a living from doing that?' A better question might be 'Hey, how can I help you make a living from that?'
Oh well since you asked. Just click here.
And if you're still not convinced that writing is a financial viable career option then check this out. (It's an article I read often when I need a little reminding myself)