Being a creative is a pretty hard life. I’d guess about three times a week, I look around and tell myself, “I’m living the dream.” Because I have a strong suspicion, based on vast amounts of historical data, that I won’t be able to maintain this lifestyle forever and I’ll look back on these years fondly.
I’m a member of SFWA. When people ask what it is, I generally say it’s a Sci-Fi/Fantasy writing group that has George R. R. Martin in it. It has a lot more than that, basically every luminary from our past, but I’m never sure who people will know and I suspect they will know Martin. Here is his old blog describing SFWA.
Because of SFWA, I can hear the musings of other writers more clearly. And pretty much everyone except George R. R. Martin, is concerned about their futures as writers. The Authors Guild regularly does surveys on author’s financial data, and it’s always depressing.
Writing has always been a hard gig. Just like painting. Or dancing. Or being a musician. But it’s very stark now. Which is why I make damn sure to regularly celebrate my current ability to write for a living.
I want to make it clear that I’m not trying to whine about the industry or state of the readers or society or anything like that. It has never been easy to write and no one owes writers a salary just because we daydream far more than regular people.
Most writers I have ever met, and I’m talking like 99%, have spent an awful lot of time contemplating how they can write for a living. That’s always the goal. The dream. I fell into it after 20 years of failing. And if I wrote more and wrote faster, I could make more money. But one thing I’ve tried to do is not break the compact I have with my readers. If I wrote faster and more, it wouldn’t be as good. I know that. And moreover, I wouldn’t enjoy it as much. I wouldn’t be able to turn to my dog and declare that “I’m living the life,” if I’m cranking out stuff I don’t personally like. If it means I eventually lose my ability to write professionally, so be it. It’s a pretty likely event no matter the source.
But I don’t want the source of my downfall to be the fact I turned my writing into a lousy job. For those 20 years I didn’t sell any writing, I still wrote. It’s part of who I am. I don’t want to poison or abuse that. Because then what will I be left with?