No Money?…. Are You Really a Writer? Part 4 of 12

Welcome to all who are new, check out the email way way back in part one so that you get a perspective. I of course wrote to this person telling them that I was going to do this. They’ve been reading the many comments and asked me to put one of their own back here. Wait for it… here it comes.

“It’s amazing how many writers will want to justify themselves. Providing proof is another. I am still in firm belief that to prove yourself you write for profit. Never to put yourself into deficit, or bankruptcy. Being that most who write do not make any money, it is easy to justify oneself… to omit the idea that passion is a part of writing is pointless. But passion will not make money or give food to a writer. To make money one is required to publish and if one doesn’t publish for profit one is not a writer, but a fraud.”

Okay, well that being said, I asked them if they wrote or did something with creativity. No they do not as it is a profound waste of time, they work in a regular job with regular hours, and they enjoy it. They do have friends who used to write, but don’t anymore. Upon asking why, they said these people never made money and then gave up.

That was my aha moment. The people this person knows were writers, but they wrote for the wrong reasons. Any agent can tell you that they can see right away who is querying with what intention in mind. It comes down to what is said in the query letter.

I think we can all agree to an extent that you do need to make some money to be a writer, but, BUT, you need to also be willing to work for no money to do what you love. There needs to be a balance. Just like with the rest of life. Writing for money isn’t everything but the same is true the opposite way, no money bigger problems. Connections and people and family are all important to a writer.

My question for you today is this: What point do think you’d make to this person, who although doesn’t write, has strong feelings about writers?


  • PrettySiren

    To this self-righteous blowhard, I would say: You don't have a right to talk, unless you've walked a mile in that person's shoes.

    This person obviously isn't a writer. Of course making money is a bonus, but there are many people who write because they love it, as a hobby of sorts. And that is FINE.

    This person seems to assume that every writer quits their day job the second they put pen to paper, which isn't the case. Most writers I know are smart enough to have another means of income until their career takes off.

    I'm fortunate that I earn money writing. I've been writing since I was four (literally). Now, that's 17 years. And I'm just starting to make money this year (granted, I didn't have opportunities until I got older, obviously). Writing isn't a get rich scheme. You have to love it, or else you have no hope of ever making money. And that's the financially sound part of it.

  • Uninvoked

    The first response from this person was an unfocused opinion, the second letter clarifies it and puts it into better perspective. Therefore I will cover the first one again, using the second letter’s additional perspective. The first sentence of the first letter reads, "To suggest to such a degree that writers are anyone who writes is absurd.”
    This is true. The literacy rate of the US is 99%. That means 99% of America is capable of reading and writing. Does that mean that 99% of America is made of novelists? No. Does the person who never finishes a draft count as a writer? Does the person who would really like to write a novel some day but never starts count as a writer? I think before we pounce on him for wanting definitions we should first define a writer for ourselves.
    The letter continues, “the only possible way to prove oneself as a writer is to make enough money to be self sustaining. Otherwise, there is no hope for the "writing career" of said writer.”
    Here is where the writer’s in the house get out their hatchets and go to work on him. Looking at his second letter, I believe this part was poorly worded. I am not certain, but what he may mean is “If writing is your career, you should make money at it.”
    What he doesn’t say, and what everyone has been trying to beat into his brain without a second thought, is that not all authentic writers want writing to be their career. For the purposes of clarity I am going to divide writers into career writers, hobbyist writers, and dreamers.
    The career writers are the ones our friend here sees as the real writers. Their novels regularly bring in at least $15,000 a year, and they write a novel every year. This is the minimum for career writing. They earn all their money from writing, they plan it out. They are professional writers.
    The hobbyist writer has a real job. He or she goes to work every day and brings money home. In their personal time (Which is really none of your business anyway) they write. When I say write, I don’t mean they dink around for a couple minutes on the computer. I mean they make an outline, shape a rough draft, edit it, submit it to a critique circle, cry over the manuscript when it limps home wounded and bleeding, fixes the mistakes and continues the circle until it is a streamlined work of art.
    I recognize the fact that it is hard to see this when you are not a writer, so I will try to put this into a different perspective. Let’s say I paint pictures as a hobby. People would call me an artist. I don’t sell my paintings, but if you go up to them, you can clearly see if I’m good or not. You can see if the painting appears rich and deep or if it looks flat and lifeless. You can see if my paintings are technically beautiful but dead, or if there is a vivid spark in them that comes only with practice and passion. You can see if I’m an artist.
    No one would ever call a hobbyist who paints something besides an artist, and no one should call a hobbyist writer a dreamer.
    I believe everyone will agree that the dreamers, once defined, are not really writers. It wasn’t clear to me from his first letter, but his second letter gave me an inkling of what he may define as a dreamer. I believe what he’s talking about are the people who do not have a second job. They won’t work. That’s not to say that they can’t, they just won’t. Instead of wanting to write or needing to, they use writing as a form of escape. “I’m doing something. I’m writing. Can’t you see I have a career ahead of me?”
    These people aren’t writing. They are escaping from real life.
    Regarding writing and careers, I offer the people of this blog these 3 links:
    Holly Lisle’s facts on pay:
    Harlan Ellison’s pay the writer:
    A sample of what a dreamer writer looks like:

  • Damaria Senne

    The point I want to make is that writers are not defined by whether they make money at it or not. Writers write. Some write material that is publishable and sell.

    Others are still learning and will write publishable material in future.

    Others write publishable material but it will take time for their stuff to take off.

    I don't really want to think about those whose work will never take off, no matter how hard they work, because I suspect it's every struggling writer's fear that they could fall into that category.

    And no, I don't fall into the category of writers she's judging harshly: I earn 80% of my income thru writing ( and the 20% comes from property investments I made using writing income). So it's not the case of a someone who failed trying to justify why she failed.

  • Aelius

    Making money by writing does not make you a writer. What makes you a writer is the act of writing.

    I once spoke to a published author when I was first thinking of getting into a career of writing. He asked if I was a writer and I said that I dabbled but never had anythign published. He then asked if I had a journal, and I stated that I did indeed. He plainly and without any pause stated that IW as indeed a writer then. He commented that to write is to be a writer, the gain of profit is jsut a side issue. His reponse is one that will stay with me always.

  • Niki Turner

    If your motive for writing is simply a way to generate income via your ability to stick words together in a rational format, then your pay scale IS your only yardstick to determine your right to wear a writer's badge.
    By way of analogy, my husband pastor's a small rural church. He also works in construction to make enough money to support our family. Some have intimated that he isn't a "real" pastor because he works a secular job.
    What they don't understand is that ministry is a calling, something you do whether you're in a pulpit or in a cafe talking to a waitress. He didn't choose it, it chose him. He was "pastoring" (by definition) before we ever started a church!
    I know many ministers who have gone into ministry as a job opportunity or a career choice. I think they are crazy. For heaven's sake, if you just want a paycheck, do something easy! Many of them burn out or fail miserably because their motive is wrong.
    I think the same could be said for writers whose motive for writing becomes skewed by visions of royalty checks or the pressure to "get paid" in order to earn the title.
    Money's nice to have, but we should never let it define who we are.

  • Becky

    I think the real clue here is that they called any creative pursuits "a profound waste of time" when asked if they had any.

    I suspect the original emailer probably has no hobbies at all because they think all waking hours must be spent "profitably".

    Personally I think enjoying something is profit as long as said something is harmless, but other people have different senses of value.

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