Not that long ago I went to a family reunion out of state. I saw relatives I hadn’t seen in a while and many asked “how’s the writing coming?” As authors there is so much we could reply to that, but no one wants to hear about the drudgery of making word count, wrangling plot threads, or trying to balance social media, promotion, and deadlines. In most cases I smile, tell them a bit about my latest release, and maybe one or two successes I’m proud to share.
When I bump elbows with a friend I haven’t seen for some time, I’m usually asked about my writing. After some brief discussion I normally get this question: “So, when are you going to retire?”
Because—come on—everyone knows writers are rolling in money. I’ve been told by this point, I should have enough to buy a private island.
This post is rambling a bit, but let me roll back the clock. When I was in my twenties, one of my co-workers had a relative who was a published author. He wrote sci-fi and fantasy, my genre at the time. She approached him about looking at some of my work and he agreed. He wrote me a nice critique and also included some advice. This was in an age before ebooks or indie authors. My co-worker’s relative was a traditionally published author with a New York house, who had twelve books to his name. His advice? “Don’t expect to make a living at this.”
I was shocked. Because—come on—everyone knows writers are rolling in money.
My, my. What time does to one’s perspective. I’ve now have ten published books, with two more scheduled to release—one in January of 2019, and one in August of 2019—but I don’t have to worry about buying that private island. It’s not going to happen in this lifetime.
We all want to hit the NYT Bestseller list or see our work made into a movie or series, but the reality for this writer is that my author income is supplemental. I look at it this way—I love to write. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid in grade school. Non stop! I was doing it before I was published, and I’d still be doing it if I wasn’t published, so if I make a supplemental income on the side for something I enjoy doing, it’s all good.
I think most people glamorize the life of a writer, but don’t realize the amount of work that goes into what we do. How often have you met someone, told them you’re a writer, and heard: “Yeah, I should write a book, too.”
Seriously? What other profession garners that kind of response? Have you ever heard anyone say I should act in a movie. I should drive a race car. I should perform surgery? Getting crazy here, but we all know that one, right?
Yet, we keep trudging along, creating our worlds and characters, shuffling them out to the reading public and hoping for good sales and a few reviews. That author way back-in-the-day who told me “don’t expect to make a living at this” was right. And yet, I wouldn’t live my life any other way.
How do you handle well meaning people who think writing is a gold mine, or that anyone can sit down and peck out a book on the keyboard? Share your thoughts on the writing life (islands optional) in the comments below—ready, set, go!