THE WRITER’S LIFE
I keep getting email from people who want to know how they can become highly-paid, creatively-fulfilled professional freelance writers like me.
Here’s what I tell them: you can’t. At least, you can’t be both of those things at the same time, unless your name is JK Rowling or some other Famous Author. In fact, in my experience, creative fulfillment is inversely proportional to earning potential.
It goes like this:
Rate the creativity of each type of writing on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Then rate how much money you can make doing it.
I’m halfway through a novel for young adults (ie, children) that blends myth, adventure, and the classic coming-of-age theme.
Creativity = 5
Money = 1 (ok, really, 0)
Yes, I know, there’s Rowling, et al, but let’s face it, in general everyone’s first attempt at a novel sucks and mine is no exception.
I write and publish non-fiction articles and book reviews for a variety of magazines.
Creativity = 4
Money = 2
Ok, some people make decent money by writing for the National Glossies, which is writer-speak for “magazines you have actually heard of,” but breaking into those mags as a freelancer actually requires selling your first-born. Seriously. I’ve seen the contract. And I’m not willing to do that. At least not yet. Adolescence is coming.
I write grant proposals for non-profit agencies to secure funding from various private, corporate, and government sources.
Creativity = 2
Money = 4
There’s a certain amount of doing-good-work satisfaction to this job, but it’s pretty formulaic.
Then there’s corporate copy writing. I’m just getting into this field now, and some assignments are tedious in the extreme. Currently I’m explaining how Widget A stacked up against Widget B on the survey of People Who Use Widgets.
Creativity = 1
Money = 5
So you see, the writer’s life is not as glamorous as it may seem. And it costs a fortune in coffee. But I truly love to write, and there is nothing I would rather be doing, even when I’m writing about widget surveys. I’m Snoopy with a typewriter.