We've all heard them, the urban legends that are just too unbelievable to be true. But no, really, it happened to this guy I know. Yeah right. And you want to call bullshit. But then you kinda don't want to ruin what little magic is left in the world. Sometimes it's good to believe in things that aren't true. Sometimes it gives you hope. But other times you need to dispel the myth. Because maybe it touches on a personal vexation that you just can't get over.
The way writing is for me.
Don't get me wrong, I LOVE writing, but it's the urban legend that most writers can earn a living from writing. I'm here to tell you, IT'S JUST NOT TRUE. I wish it was. Because I'm all about following your dreams, pursuing your passion and all that the universe will provide crap. Or at least I used to be. Until I realized, I'm not the exception. Because I'm not even close to earning a living. An exceptionally small amount of writers are the exception. And those writers? They also spend a hell of a lot of time not only writing, but promoting themselves.
Why do I care?
Because now that I'm an author, people start to perceive you as being successful because you have a book. But, I do hear the same story over and over again. And it goes something like this (an actual, true story a 30 year old single woman who's contemplating a career change told me a few weeks ago). So, I know this guy who works at elephant journal and he writes 15 articles a day. Yeah, and he makes $50,000! My heart starts pounding, because there's several layers of bullshit here. And this woman can not quit her job to write believing this is true.
Bullshit level 1: The elephant journal does not pay for articles. I know this because I've written for them. What you get is a by-line and exposure to promote yourself. And hopefully get some personal satisfaction in the process. That's it. Maybe if they choose you to be a regular columnist, you get paid. I couldn't find that information, but you do have to publish 4 articles with them before you'll even be considered for a position. The guy in question was supposed to have worked his way up to editing other articles. So maybe he edits 15 articles a day. Maybe that's conceivable. But then he's editing more than writing.
Bullshit level 2: 15 articles a day? They are going to be the shittiest damn articles. Cause there is no way you can crank out that amount of writing and have it be quality writing. Because a lot of writing is actually sitting by yourself and doing nothing but thinking about your topic. Like how can I come at this from a different angle? It's really a huge time suck, but a hugely important part of the process. Unless I'm exceptionally slow or exceptionally critical. Which could be true.
Bullshit level 3: Earning a living writing. Yeah, it's possible. I suppose. Although, I don't earn a living myself. I'm not even remotely close. Fortunately, I don't have to. I write because I feel compelled to. Mostly, I do it for free. And I'm not the exception, a whole lot of other writers do the same thing because the writing market is completely flooded. Although, I imagine it's conceivable if you hustle your ass off to find writing gigs and write well for that market and then market yourself constantly that you could actually make money at it. I wouldn't know from experience though, because just the thought of it exhausts me.
So, while I wish this urban legend were true, I think it falls the way of most urban legends, there's actually far more to the story. And some investigative reporting to find out what the angle is, is probably sound advice before quitting your day job. By all means write, but maybe start by letting it feed your soul without expectation that it'll feed your pocketbook. At least right away.
If you're interested, you can read my elephant journal article here.