Perhaps you write for yourself, taking satisfaction from forming an idea into a finished piece. Perhaps you write for you family, preserving bits of history for future generations. Perhaps you write for publication, sharing your work with anyone willing to read beyond the first few lines.
What about money? Wouldn’t it be great to be paid for your work? A fiction teacher once told me to consider my reasons very carefully. If I sought fame and/or fortune, I ought to give up writing in favor of more practical skills.
Is it really that difficult to earn a living as a writer?
In the world of creative writing—particularly literary fiction and poetry—proper compensation seems like a half‐forgotten dream. A select few literary journals offer high fees, but competition among writers is fierce. Smaller and less established journals may offer little or no monetary compensation.
In order to earn a living, many writers turn to trade and specialty magazines for more lucrative deals. Feature articles tend to generate considerably more income than creative writing. However, most editors aren’t interested in reading unsolicited manuscripts. For the writer, that means extra time spent on research and crafting a convincing query letter. Why is your article unique? Why are you the best writer for the job? Why should the editor care?
Ultimately, you have to decide if the benefits outweigh your efforts. If you’re making good money but hate what you’re writing, you’ve probably gone off track somewhere along the way. On the other hand, an old adage suggests that if you do what you love, the money will follow.
Betty Dobson is an award-winning writer of short fiction, essays and poetry. She also writes newspaper and magazine articles but is still waiting for those awards to materialize. In the meantime, she continues to run InkSpotter Publishing, which has three new books available and several more in the works for 2012.