I have been making the “writer blog” circuit for a while now, seeing what’s out there and learning what I can. There is so much advice to be had, really good advice, that it is amazing. And all of them agree: to become a writer you must sacrifice. You must work and scrape and toil for 10 years in obscurity, raking in rejection after rejection, broke and barely surviving, often depending on the good will of those around you. If you have the tenacity to somehow make it through this, chances are you will end up making a living on your writing. Blog after blog is filled with the story of the now-successful writer who spent his early years working crappy job after crappy job, unmarried, childless, friendless, but cranking out a story a day until they acquired enough writing time to really learn the craft.
This is fantastic stuff. The sacrifices most of them made in their lives to get where they are, the top of their craft, is truly astounding. At this point in my life, I am not willing to sacrifice everything for writing. What about people like me? “Hobbyists,” they would sniff. “Permanent amateurs who will never reach the heights of The Craft and will never be able to quit their day jobs. Pathetic.”
But what about those who don’t necessarily want to quit their day job?
To be honest, I like coding as much as I like writing, and I make a fantastic living at it. So I’m going to throw away a good job that I love to make less at a different job I love? That doesn’t make much sense. Sure, I could make it big, become a best seller, but how many millionaire authors are there? How many millionaire computer programmers?
So this begs the question, are authors a bunch of bloated wind bags who are full of crap? Yes. Yes they are. They go on and on about The Craft and how they’ve “just got to write” and then turn around look down at the hobbyists for not making the noble sacrifice they themselves have made. In other words, it’s really about elitism and money. This is especially puzzling from genre writers who already complain about the same elitism applied to them from the “literary” world. What if I know that only writing part-time will double the length of my journey, and I’m more or less okay with that?
Writers like to paint this issue in black and white. Either you’re sacrificing everything for the craft, or you’re not an Author. There are no minor leagues. Far and wide, they sneer their battle cry, “If this sounds too tough for you, then quit right now! You’ll never make it!” What’s wrong with being a college player who dreams of the pros, but may never get there? Why would you discourage them from playing? Yes, chances are they won’t make it. But does that mean we should eliminate college football because it’s not the pros? I think a couple million people would be surprised to hear that nothing good came out of college football.
Look, if we were all really just concerned about The Craft, then we would encourage as many people to write as often as possible. But if we’re really concerned about making a living, then it is in our best interest to use scorn, derision, awful rumors about the barriers to entry of the field, and any other method possible to discourage people from writing. This keeps down the competition.
I am trying to break in for a lot of reasons. I like to improve at everything I do, even if I won’t ultimately make a living at it. And I can dream as big as the next guy about hitting a long shot. Most importantly, I am a person who needs constant outside validation. Ask my wife. And if I make a little cash on the side, I’ll take it.
Even if it’s not enough to quit my day job.
(P.S. Actually though, it is really hard and you should definitely not submit to any of the markets I submit to. Thanks.)