An English professor once said, “Writing your thoughts, sharing them, is one of the most egotistical things you can do. You really believe what you have to say is intrinsically important.” Think about that. Then ask yourself, WHY do I write?
Some write to make money and literally write “words to live by.” Others are driven to write as a cathartic exercise. Some write because they feel compelled to write–everything. They are similar to the compulsive readers (close kin) that will read the cereal box, the signs along all the highways, the markers in parks, etc…just as the writer will write about everything they see, hear, sense. So what does this have to do with surviving financially as a writer?
If your MAIN desire is to financially support yourself through your writing, there are certain steps you really should take, incrementally, to make sure you reach your goal. First, what genre is selling best as you enter the field of writing? Is everyone into vampires, or zombies, or maybe romance? Maybe the how-to books are the best sellers. You will need to research what is currently reaching the reading public. Secondly, you need to seek those publishers that will be interested in your work as it will sell to the genres the public is fancying currently. More research. In real estate, the touted phrase is “location, location, location.” In the world of writing there is an equivalent in “popularity, appeal, marketability.” Do you see how this has to be approached step by step?
The unfortunate side of this is that if you are writing in what is not considered a popular-at-the-time genre, you may be forced to write a weight-loss book or something you have little interest in but that will sell and provide you with some financial gain. Of course, there are many more steps to be taken before the ultimate goal is reached, but these two must first be accomplished. To make money, you have to appeal to those who are going to spend it.
Again, you need to ask yourself, “WHY am I writing?” Another reason is it is cathartic for you. You can create a character in any genre you desire to portray your angst, your secret desires, your pain, or your personal feeling of triumph. You can give this character(s) all the feelings and personal secrets that you would never share with anyone–through your writing. It can be objective, imaginative, away from yourself. Of course, if you choose to write a memoir, you choose to trap yourself into giving away things you might never be able to do in any other way. Ergo–writing is your cathartic outlet.
IF, however, you write by compulsion, because you truly feel that this is your “calling,” you will probably find yourself thinking more and more that your experiences, your ability to speak empathically with words on paper, are meant to help others. Because of this, you will think about what the professor said. Is this really just an ego trip? Do you think you can change things for others with your words, make life a little easier for them? Make them aware that they are not alone in what they think and feel? And you will doubt yourself, your words, your ability to help anyone with your words. Still, you will write. THAT is your answer. It is not egotistical to use this compulsion to try to help others in whatever way you can. Some will do it through the music they write, others with the art work they share. You will do it with words. Often, when you realize this is WHY you write, you do not “pan” the audience out there and what they WANT to read, but what you feel NEEDS to be read, shared, regardless of popular audience appeal.
We who write out of compulsion often start out trying to make some money, it then advances to becoming cathartic, and then awakens to relating to people, their needs, rather than their pocketbooks or wallets.
No one reason is better than the other. We all know how we adore that one person that can write a how-to book to help us get through a project with a simple step-by-step process! We need these writers as much as those that write of their lovelorn losses and pain to escape our own. We need to trek into the world of vampires and zombies, movie star biographies to escape our mundane realities. We also need those who write from the heart candidly, openly, caring that we not feel alone. The ones that only want the world to be better for themselves and their readers.
So, in summary, when you start looking at writing as a way to make a living, you need to take some time to explore WHY you are writing, honestly, and then go for it. Again, there are no right or wrong reasons. It should be something you enjoy and are willing to work at, no matter what reason you choose. Just realize, everything changes, and with luck and work, everything evolves so stay ready to roll with that idea from the start. With knowing WHY you write, you can achieve your ultimate goal because you can stay focused on the why and the rest will come as you grow in your chosen craft. You may never be RICH, but you will survive.
Good luck and don’t give up! You can do it!
Judy Kukuruza’s books “One Body, Many Souls”, “Little Stories to Play With in Your Mind” and “Poems to Ponder” can be found on Amazon. Their website is at https://onebodymanysouls.com/. Their blog is at https://wolvescrowsandspirituality.home.blog.