There is a romanticism about what it's like to make a living as a writer. People who are not writers, but want to be one, often have this ideal that writers sit around cafes all day, pontificating with each other on the meaning of life until inspiration strikes. At which time they then sit down at a laptop and literally spew out a piece of classic literature that would make Hemingway rise from the dead and exclaim, "Holy cow, why didn't I think of that?!"
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Being a writer is just like any other job; there are highs, lows, monotony, and reward. And just like any other job, you only get out of it what you put into it. Which means if you don't plant your rear end down in a chair and write, then you don't get paid. Similarly, if you consistently give your writing away for free, then you’ll never be taken seriously as a writer.
Writer or Author?
To be clear, there is a difference between a writer and an author. A writer writes everyday as a career (or to at least to hold a job). Writer positions include things like journalists, magazine staff writers, managing editors, copyeditors, ad and news copy writers, and web content providers, just to name a few. An author writes books, and usually does something else to actually pay the bills. Being an author is usually a hobby or side career. Being a writer is a job.
What's it like in the Trenches as a Writer?
I sat down recently with full-time writer, Annette Velarde, to ask what it's like to earn a living writing for hire, and how she got started in the biz. Annette is working on her doctorate and for years her only source of income was contract writing. She is a regular writer for several magazines, but also does the “one-off” contract writing jobs that occasionally come her way.
Becoming a writer is not something she slid into. For years she worked in mortgage lending, but about 10 years ago decided she couldn't take it anymore. "The lack of creativity was suffocating," she says. “I’ve always liked to write and was told I was good at it, so I decided to follow my passion, and assumed the money would somehow work itself out.”
And somehow it did.
In my interview with Annette, she talks about:
- How to get started as a paid writer
- What it takes to maintain a living as a writer
- The different types of writing jobs out there
- Where to find writing jobs that can actually pay the bills
She also gives you a candid assessment of what a day in the life of a working writer is like. Although it's rewarding for her (and writers like her) those considering a life a writing may be in for a surprise as to how relatively unromantic the day-to-day routine really is.
As always I'm happy to give you a teaser of my interview with Annette. The following is a couple minutes of my "sit-down" with her, in which she discusses how ghostwriting for other people's blogs is a lucrative and good way to get started in a career as a professional writer:
Stacy Dymalski is an author and independent self-publishing consultant, who teaches self-publishing through the Life Long Learning program at the University of Utah. Her latest book, “The Memoir Midwife, Nine Steps to Self-Publishing Your Book” is a primer that walks authors through the self-publishing process.
She’s also an award-winning speaker and comedian who pens the popular humor blog “Nonsense to Mom’s Sense of Humor, How my life as a stand-up comic prepared me for motherhood.” She lives in Park City, UT, with her two teenage sons, who provide a constant source of comedic material. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.