Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Poor Writers

By Kristin Owens

Financially successful writers are a work of fiction. At least the majority of them. I’ve come to a dismal conclusion there is no way – no way possible – a writer can support herself. And those who do – you must have sold your soul. Or enjoy eating instant noodles. Writers fit into one of two categories: Retired and Collecting a Nice Pension OR Married to a Thoughtful, Patient Spouse Who is Gainfully Employed with Healthcare. Lucky me.

Instant Noodles Are A Bargain!

As I continue my hiccupping journey learning about the nonsensical writing industry – I can’t fail to notice writers do more than write. With fierce competition for so little money, writers must find other ways to support themselves. This is what I dub "craft support" or the Spanx of Writing. They edit. They blog. They coach. Give workshops. Present at conferences. This must force introverted scribblers to shovel Xanax by the handfuls, albeit an evil necessity to keep their writing flowing.

It’s unfortunate, but poor writers are resigned to do anything BUT write. I believe writing must be the only job that needs another job to support itself... or maybe that’s what the term "starving artist" is really all about. And I thought it was just for actors. We’re apparently not alone.

But, wait there’s more! In addition to the small pay for articles and essays, a writer may get the fantastical idea to, gulp, write a book which gets no remuneration at all. None. No weekly paycheck for the multitudinous hours crafting meaningful dialog, scenes providing stunning visual clarity and memorable iconic characters. Which is why, sadly, most people consider writing a hobby. Since you can’t possibly make enough to support yourself, you must be doing it for fun. Please. Writing is work whether you get paid or not.

First Paycheck.

I also contend there’s a lot of nonsense that keeps one from writing. Two words: social media. The required platform expected for writers is a lot of hooey. Industry informs us that writers need a healthy following on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get noticed by publishers. Tell me, how many friends are enough? All the precious time tweeting, posting and linking takes us away from, guess what – writing. So, let’s collectively stop doing the Procrastination Dance and get back to writing good stuff. Wait, I feel another march coming on.

Poor writers, let’s not despair. We may not have stacks of cash to balance our Haut-Medóc on, but we are rich in other ways. We have boundless enthusiasm, motivation and hopes that someday, yes someday, that agent will call, that publisher will email and your book – your baby – will take its first breath in the big wide world of Amazon. Ahhh. Someday.

But until that day, keep slogging. It’s all part of the improvement process. Plus, you need to make 10¢/word in order to appreciate 20¢. Keep dreaming about bigger and better, because when that magic day happens, you’ll think back to the simpler days of being a poor writer. And laugh. And that, my friends, may be worth the book advance itself.

* * *

Kristin Owens continues to slog. She is a Fort Collins writer and member of the Northern Colorado Writers and Lighthouse Writers groups. She is completing her debut novel and dreaming of someday. Her published works can be found at

Additional resources to ponder:


Laura Mahal said...

Kristin, I will be laughing all day! Thank you for this wonderful piece. (The "Spanx of Writing" . . . At my age, I can so appreciate the sentiment and humor of that particular line!)

I've been guilty of the "Procrastination Dance," and also am no fan of the time sink involved. I'd like my first priority to be writing, rather than making the rounds of social media. I wonder if forcing a writer to retreat from his or her self-induced exile is always a good thing? Aren't we supposed to hide in our writing nook and slip the occasional tumbler of Scotch, neat or one the rocks? Man, I thought I'd learned everything I needed to from Mr. Hemingway. Who didn't Tweet, as far as I know. (Nor was whisky his beverage of choice, but I digress, which is not terribly unusual for me.)

My side job is copyediting, which I do because it brings me immense joy. I love basking in words and swimming through them to pluck out the microplastic debris. I don't charge much, but I also keep to a limited clientele, so as not to impede my writing career / wild, rambling ways. Copyediting provides the balance I need: My writing is literary and unchecked, but my editing is precise and bound by rules. I guess I've been wearing Spanx and didn't even know it!

Nicely done, Kristin!

Kristin Owens said...

thanks Laura!

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