Friday, February 5, 2010

Writers' Day Jobs

Many times, dare I say most times, writers don't start out as just writers.  Sometimes writers, even though they know they want to be professional writers, can't quite get enough traction to give up a day job.  Sometimes it for a few years, sometimes its throughout a career. 

Income from writing can be slippery.  Feast or famine.  A nice big paycheck or nothing for months or even a couple of years.  Or a writer can turn out to be Stephen King or Dan Brown or a world famous (within his or her circle) copywriter, or a screenwriter who hits it big/lucky. 

The later is preferable, but statistics lean toward the former so it's best for writers reach for the top - while protecting their backs. 

My mother was very supportive of my writing, but her advice was, have some skill that can carry you through if you need it. I did and I have.  And, even though I've published with Doubleday, Harlequin, Pinnacle and others in addition to international reprints and optioning of several screenplays, there still appear those appalling gaps in income that must be covered. 

It's a sad reality that most writers cannot make all their income from writing alone.  Only a very small percentage at the top do that, and some do it spectacularly.  But this is not about them.

Some writers have been known to get a loan from family or very good friends when an advance is in sight, but not yet in hand.  This is a tactic to be used only as a very last resort.  If the writer does this, then, in effect, a good portion of that approaching advance is already gone to pay back that loan, creating a spiral that's hard to get out of.

So, what to do.  Well, I've worked in numerous positions in the workforce along the way.  The best was Assistant Bookstore Manager, where I could be close tp the written word that I love. Generally though, the best advice is to cultivate something you enjoy doing, something that can be done part-time or as a temp, fill-in kind of thing.  Try to think in terms of low stress, decent pay.

The other thing writers can do to further their cause is to write in some other area than the one they usually do.  If you're a novelist and publish periodically, but those advances and royalties don't stretch quite far enough, think about some commercial writing to fill in the gaps.  Could you learn the latest approach to resumes and hire yourself out as professional resume writer?  How about writing blogs for someone else as a ghost?  Or maybe just ghostwriting in general.  I've ghosted several good projects that brought in good paychecks though my name will never be associated with them.  Perhaps articles for magazines.  Maybe locally you can discover folks who need writers to create reports or white papers or write some simple ad copy or an Ebook project they'd like to distribute free to get publicity.  Think creatively,there are other venues.

If you can write you can write.  You do need to learn  about each area you might want to undertake, so don't go shotgun and try to do them all.  Focus in on a couple that interest you, learn what is required and remember, you're doing this for pay, not for free.  Remember too that everything you write improves your writing abilities in different ways.

So write what you love, but don't be too hasty to give up that 'day job'.      

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