Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bad Times / Good Times of Writing

When folks ask me whether I want the good news or bad news first, I choose bad. What can I say, I like a happy ending.

So I'll begin by telling you all the ways writing for a living is so-very meh:

  • It's not really a living. I said I'd spend my first profits off this writing gig by buying a Mac with this fancypants software called Vellum. More than two years on, and I'm still saving up. True you can read loads of financial success stories from writers who've hit it big, but I find their tales a little disingenuous. You can work your hiney off and have skills and talent, but if the timing isn't right or you don't get the right marketing incursion or the market isn't quite ready for your story, you're not going to make money. And worst of all, most of those market variables are not in your control. About all you can do is keep working, keep writing books, keep learning craft, keep sharing your work, and hope a timing fairy deigns to sit on your head and make the magic happen.
  • It's lonely most of the time. I mean, yeah you can hang out with other writers online or join a local writing group and meet up at the coffee shop every Wednesday or whatever, but the day-in, day-out work is going to be just you and a computer. Possibly with coffee or vodka, but neither of those beverages are very good conversationalists. The silver lining on this meh is that if you love solitude, this is the perfect career choice for you. I happen to love solitude, so I'm in my happy place.
  • It's unstable. Even if you have an agent, this market is a wild beast at full gallop. Good luck attempting to do that market research everybody talks about. It's not predictive of anything. People who analyse markets for a living are scratching their heads right now, which is pretty obvious in some of the choices big publishers are making, or not making. I guess you can turn this into a positive if you really squint hard: if nobody really knows what's going on, your chance at success is roughly equal to anyone else's. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Ugh, enough negativity, though. I'm ready for some good news, how about you? If you've decided that the writing life is for you, here are some upsides to this crazy career:

  • You can work in your pajamas. 
  • You can make stuff up. Like, for a living. It's like being professionally seven years old.
  • Every once in a while, someone might tell you that your work helped them through a rough time. This is literally the best thing that can happen in your whole life, so hoard that treasure every time you get a peek at it. 
  • You can make people laugh. You can make people cry. And you don't even have to be in the same room as them. Which of course is an introvert's dream.

There, now I at least feel better. I guess it all boils down to you, what you're comfortable with. You don't have to quit your day job and stop buying Starbucks daily and suffer to be a writer. You just have to know what you're getting into, make whatever adjustments you can handle making, and ease in. In other words, you don't have to go all in, all the time, fifty books a year and hardcore advertising. You can approach this career however you need to for your personal comfort and build it around your life, rather than the other way around.

Mostly, be kind to you. You deserve the happy ending.