Can Your Writing Make Your Rich? How Do You Pay the Rent Until It Does?

Let’s be honest. We writers all cherish the dream, fueled by movies, TV shows and books, that all we need to do is publish a book and we’ll be rich. We can pay off our debts, buy whatever we always wanted, and never have to worry about money again.

Well, it does happen. Ask Stephen King or E.L. James, the Fifty Shades of Grey lady. Ask Oregon writer Cheryl Strayed, who wrote Wild, now a movie with Academy Award nominations. But none of them hit the big-time overnight. They had to work to pay the rent, and they’re still working hard to keep the magic going. Most writers, even those with many publications, don’t make a fortune; they just hope to make more than they spend.

Writing is a little like gold mining. A few strike it rich, but they have to dig for a long time before they find the gold. Most of us aren’t that lucky. We need another source of income. That’s why so many writers are teachers. That’s one of the reasons I keep my job as a church musician. We can cite many famous writers who had full-time jobs doing something else.

Recently there’s been a lot of discussion online about the advantages of having a working spouse to support your writing. It is a huge advantage. Shortly after my husband proposed, I threw my arms around him and said, “Now I can freelance!” He kind of said, “Well, uh, wait a minute here, you still need to work.” But eventually I did quit my newspaper job and become a full-time writer. In later years, I dabbled in teaching and told my students I was lucky to have a “sugar daddy” to pay the bills. Since he died, I have continued to be lucky to receive part of his pension and social security. It’s not enough to live on, but it allows me to spend my mornings writing.

It would also be helpful to have a trust fund, come from a wealthy family, or find someone who wants to sponsor you and let you write whatever you want. (If you have that, what are you doing here? Go write.)

It’s hard to find time and energy to write when you have a job and maybe a family, too. But it’s not all bad. I find I get more writing done when my time is limited. It forces me to get to work. Jobs give you contacts in the outside world, experiences to write about, steady pay, and benefits. The ideal job will not use up your writing energy. I often think house painting would be a good gig for a creative writer. While you’re putting the paint on the walls, your mind could be working on stories.

New writers often think they’ll be able to quit their jobs in a month or two. I hate to tell them it’s not likely. But it is possible. And just like the lottery, you can’t win if you don’t play. So write that bestseller. But meanwhile, don’t quit your day job. And if you have a rich uncle or the chance to marry someone who can support your writing, consider yourself blessed.

Following are links to some articles on the subject that you might find interesting.

“The Struggle Is Real; Or, False Author Narratives”

“Sponsored” by my husband: Why it’s a problem that writers never talk about where their money comes from

 “A Word From My Sponsor”

Now go write.

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