Originally posted by Fritz:
I wondered what kind of writing you do.
All of the following, at one time or another:
Fiction, nonfiction, news, opinion, books, magazines, newspapers
But my bread and butter has been non-fiction magazine writing and essays, much of it based on investigative reporting.
I hope to change careers someday (when I can escape the golden handcuffs of what I am doing now.) Writing is something I enjoy, and I think I have a moderate amount of talent. But I don't really know what it would take to make a living as a writer.
It helps to have one or more of the following:
High tolerance for financial instability, even poverty
A wage-earning spouse
A trust fund
A day job
A tough hide
I'm sure it won't come as a shock to you that as a career, there are few things tougher than being a writer. Everyone wants to be one (or so it seems at times) and so the competition is overwhelming. But there are very few good ones. If you are good, EXCEPTIONALLY good, and you have the street smarts (i.e. resourcefulness and canniness)to pull it off, you'll think it is easy street. But most of us struggle. A lot.
A good friend of mine who is on staff at a famous magazine and whose two books have won awards and have been made into miniseries' told me over lunch that he still has to write freelance magazine articles to support himself and be able to pay for the needs of his kids. Most of us teach to support our writing. That is the usual way of it, even for the famous ones.
I just wanted to hear a little bit of your experience of the writing profession.
this is very unusual! my friends are sick of hearing about it--they have urged me to never return to freelancing full time, because our friendship could probably not withstand the strain.
seriously, i'd rather not go into my personal experiences. they are too painful. it would be like opening a vien. i don't want to discourage you too much, as there have been moments of great triumph. but overall i'd characterize the writing life as one big emotional rollercoaster, and the depths of that ride are deep.
what i usually tell my students, fritz, is, if you can do anything else for a living, do it. only make writing your career if you are incapable of doing anything else for a living. it is that difficult.
my suggestion would be that you continue to write, carving out a sacred writing time for yourself each morning or evening. take writing workshops to meet and learn from other writers. read the books (though most of those, and most writing classes are pretty useless).
you can honor the writer in yourself and give him a chance, without sacrificing your life for it. just make a little time each day, just like you do for the piano. enjoy it for itself, and not with the aim of having a career. over time, you will find out if what you produce is worth publishing or not. and when you get that six-figure contract, THEN you might think about switching careers. but if it were me, i'd still keep the day job.
a good book to start with is "writing down the bones" by natalie goldberg. i also really like her book: "wild mind, living the writer's life."
perhaps there are other writers here who might want to weigh in. those who have had staff jobs or done corporate or technical work have a very different experience of being a writer than i do.