It’s something of a cliché that writers don’t make any money. Of course, it is a myth, because plenty of writers out there are rolling in their millions, guaranteed a new bestseller regardless of the quality or standard of the prose.
Then again, that probably accounts for 1% of writers, maybe even fewer. Writing as a ‘career’ is one to shy away from, a hobby that grows out of control. ‘You’ll never make any money,’ people say. ‘What if it doesn’t work out?’
I just want to provide a little bit of context so this whole thing seems more legitimate–I’m a 20-year-old writer studying for a degree in English with Creative Writing at university. I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember, prose fiction being the area that has always appealed to me. But writing seemed to have something of a celebrity status as I went through my teenage years–my dream seemed to fade away the more I realised that becoming a ‘successful writer’ is just as lucky a break as, say, a successful actor. It isn’t just a case of writing a good story.
At first, the realisation scared me. It terrified me, in fact–now my career of choice was pretty much off the list, what did I try? Journalism was, and probably still is, an option. I wrote for a few music websites, and as much as I loved my time there, the world of fiction still called my name. I thought about a few other potential career paths: teaching, criminal psychology, etc. But still, it was my stories that gave me the most pleasure.
It seems my stories give others the most pleasure, too. Not to sound big-headed, but I always performed well in creative writing tasks at college, and I always got the most gratification from being told ‘your story is good’ than any other ‘good marks’ in other subjects. For somebody to compliment my construction…that’s the ultimate compliment.
So, to cut a few years short, I pursued a degree in English with Creative Writing and found myself writing and publishing a few short stories. Something in the Cellar is one of those stories. I also wrote What We Saw, my debut novel, from late-2010 to mid-2012.
The thing is, writing these stories haven’t made me a lot of cash. Sure–I’ve made a nice sum through crowdfunding, and some would argue that it’s not bad to have a hobby that earns me ‘cash on the side’.
However, that’s not how I view things. Sure, it’d be nice to have a job where I’m earning £100,000 per year, but would I be as happy in that job as I am in writing? I can almost guarantee I wouldn’t be.
We only live once. What do we really want from life? A nice, hefty sum of cash? Or to actually live it, to do those things our body and our soul cry out for us to do?
I’m not slagging off those in good jobs earning lots of money. You’ve earned your position through hard work. That’s exactly what I want to do with my writing–earn a position. If it takes twenty years to make any sort of cash, then so be it. I’ll be happy doing it, and as long as I have the money to eat and to, well, live, I’ll be content.
Write for pleasure, not for the pennies. That way, the pennies will come, eventually. Follow your muse and whatever it is you want to do in life, do it. You only get one shot, so if you have some stories to tell, get telling them! I know I will.
Why do you write? What motivates you? Have you always wanted to write?
Image courtesy of jjpacres via Flickr