How much money can I make as a writer? Sorry, run that by me one more time. You want to make money, as a writer? Why? How?
I’ve been noticing how the internet is laden with advice on how to write for money. How to be a novelist. How to boost your sales. Or how not to get your hopes up because the successful writers are like lottery winners. Interestingly enough, as I started writing this, a discussion on the topic of writing and money popped up on my favourite online hangout at www.sffchronicles.com offering a wide variety of views. However, what follows is entirely my own opinion and there’s no-one else to blame.
The thing is, I’ve been writing since I was in my teens, and I would be delighted if someone gave me lots of money for doing it, but that’s not why I write.
I know I must be pretty good at it because people have been known to smile as they read what I wrote, and that’s a very good reason to write. Not as good as it makes me happy, but making someone else happy (or sad, or angry depending on what the writing is about) seems like a good reason for doing it.
Realistically, if I wanted to be paid to write, I would go and get a job where someone paid me to write. Except for that absolutely miniscule percentage of writers who get their novel published and sell enough to actually see some money, the rest of us had better have a day-job, win the lottery, or be startled to discover that they are the only heir of a fabulously wealthy and recently-deceased long-lost relative. Taking those options in order, that’s: reality, wild optimism, and the sort of incredible fantasy that you should expect from a writer.
My writing is just an aspect of a more general drive – I like making things. I like the contented buzz of standing back and staring at the latest story, the greenhouse, the new doors on the storage shed or the new book shelves made from old shipping pallets, and being able to say to myself “That’s good. That works”. And whether it’s a piece of writing, or the bookshelves, there’s also satisfaction in that moment where I look and say to myself, “That just needs polishing down a bit, that little bit there…”
People do get paid for writing, do make a career out of it, and I would hope that some of them still enjoy their job. I’ve been employed in two different jobs over the years, doing something I enjoy, but after a while each of those did become just a job. Writing has never been a job, and perhaps that’s just as well, because I’ve not grown bored with it.
There’s a quote by Stephen King that really sums it up: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” It’s a very good quote, but for me it glosses over a very important point, and implies that somehow being an amateur is inferior. If I want to be paid to write then I have to treat it as a job, but honestly, I am intrinsically an amateur, literally someone who does it for the love of it. The King quote is locked into the mindset that being paid is the one and only measure.
Writing is about making something, and it makes me happy.
Isn’t that enough?
OMP Admin Note: Mark Huntley-James writes science fiction and fantasy on a small farm in Cornwall, where he lives with his partner and a menagerie of cats, poultry and sheep.
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