Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.
Not surprisingly, I’m friends and acquainted with a lot of writers and people who want to be writers. And, inevitably, I hear the woes and hardships of being a writer, often described and justified as “writer life.” Those gripes usually go something like this:
- “I can’t get a job as a writer.”
- “I can’t make a living.”
- “I have writer’s block.”
As a working writer, I lack compassion when it comes to the complaints. It’s as though society created this romantic myth of the suffering writer, and writers have bought into it. I call complete bullshit on that.
Being homeless, poor, unable to tap into creativity, misunderstood, underpaid, and under appreciated is NOT writer life. It is the life of someone trying to be successful at being a writer.
I’m an actual writer, not someone trying to be one, not someone who fantasizes about it. I’m actually doing it. Who better to bust the myths and reveal to you what it’s really like to be a working writer? Here’s the truth about writer life.
Writing is an actual job.
Yes, it’s a real job. Most people don’t believe that. It’s as though you have to have a couple of book titles under your belt before the average person accepts that your career is writing. I had been making my living as a writer for years and years, but it wasn’t until I was earning bylines in the L.A. Times travel supplement that my own parents finally realized that their youngest daughter was a real writer.
Being a working writer comes in a variety of forms, from copywriting, to journalism, to ghost writing. There are a plethora of options out there for you to make writing your job, but that’s one thing to consider. See, writing is a job with responsibilities, deadlines, and people counting on you. Often, creative thinkers who are turned off by the conventional job market assume that working as a writer allows for flakiness. It does not. I can assure you, when you work as a writer, writer’s block is a luxury you’re not allowed. Amateurs can have writer’s block. The rest of us work because it’s expected of us. (You never hear of an airline pilot complain of pilot’s block, do you? Hopefully, that will never happen!)
Look, I’m a pretty damn good writer, but what sets me apart from everyone else who is eyeing my success is my professionalism, dependability, time management skills, and ability to be a team player. Now, those sound like boring characteristics to have, but they’re necessary if you want to have a consistent, robust career as a writer, which brings me to my next point…
You can earn a good living as a writer.
Oh, my god! I am so tired of the starving artist myth. Yes, it’s a myth. Anyone with the right attitude can be financially successful no matter what it is that they are trying to achieve. While I am not earning six figures a year (but that is totally plausible), I make a rewarding salary at my full-time job as a communications specialist, plus I receive employer-paid health insurance, which is a huge bonus.
This blog that you’re reading right now is monetized in a variety of ways. I also freelance and earn extra income by being a regular contributor for Best of Vegas and accepting website content creation jobs. Honestly, and I know I’m very fortunate, most of my side hustle comes to me without having to search for opportunities. My blog, social media, and relationship-building skills have helped a lot with that.
If you’re one of those people currently working a job you hate, but you really want to be a writer, then start job hunting for social media, blogging, and copywriting positions. Now is a great and profitable time to be a writer. Websites need people to write content for their pages and blogs. Most of these companies have already tried foreign-based content factories, only to be burned by poorly-written articles that read more like spam than something written by an expert. Search engines have programmed their bots to tell the difference between quality content and spammy content. Sites with quality content are being rewarded with higher search engine results. So, there definitely is a need for good writers in today’s digital age.
Look, I’m not living high on the hog, but I have a very comfortable life that includes a car, an adorable abode in a country club, travel, shopping, healthy food, and lots of happy hours. There’s nothing starving about this working writer. If I can do it, so can you.
Being an employable writer requires more than just the ability to write.
Hopefully, I’ve boosted your dreams of being a working writer, but know that it’s more than just being able to string words together in an interesting and correct manner. As I just mentioned, quality content is necessary for websites competing for top search engine rankings, which means you need to know buzzwords, trends, audience profiles, analytics, and SEO. It’s great if you can write, sure, but you had better know a few things about digital marketing. Otherwise, your talents just won’t be useful in an online world.
Writers are very handy when it comes to social media, too. Employers need someone who can write catchy blurbs to accompany a post. Know hashtags and how to curate content that complements your employer’s brand.
Time management is important to be a successful writer. Deadlines exist for a reason, often created by marketers managing a campaign or editors satisfying a big name advertiser. By respecting deadlines, you are supporting the success of your employer, which means solidifying your position as their resident writer.
Lastly, I highly recommend relationship-building skills. Recruiters, bosses, and editors change jobs eventually. Keep a good relationship with everyone you work with, and they’ll think of you when a writing position opens up at their new place of employment. Also, build and keep good relationships with public relations professionals. These are the people who will help you with your freelance jobs or the stories you write for your own blog.
Conclusion… You can be a working writer.
Don’t let the myth of the couch-surfing, suffering writer scare you away from chasing what is a fulfilling and fun career. Mine started off in marketing, which included a lot of writing (think company newsletters), and eventually morphed into something specifically focused on writing, editing, proofreading, and blogging. And I wrote plenty of freelance articles pro bono or for dirt cheap before I started earning some meaty side-hustle wages. Remain positive, professional, diligent, and true to your dreams. Know what you want and go for it. One day, you, too, can experience a wonderful writer life.