I Heart Indies

Monday, May 9, 2011

What if you win the lottery (what if you don't)

"Can I be a writer?" people ask me in various ways.  The answer is, "Of course, you don't need my permission to do that."
What they really mean to ask is, "Can I make money with this?  Can I make a living at it?"
The answer to that one is, sadly, no.
Terry Kay once told me he estimated fifty people in the US make their living writing fiction.  I don't think the number is that high.
What saddens me about people who "want to be a writer" so they can make big bucks and escape the rat race, isn't just the enormous odds stacked against them, it's that their lifeplan isn't to write; it's to write "ONE BIG THING" and spend the rest of their lives being rich and famous.
Are you someone who wants to be a writer?  Really?  Then ask yourself this question: If I won the lottery tomorrow and had more money than I could ever spend, would I still write?  If the answer is yes, you're a writer.  If no, you're a wannabe.  Sometimes wannabes make it; it's a screwy world, after all, but in the writing biz, success goes to those who perservere.  And perservere .
And what if you never win the lottery?  What if your life continues more or less as it is right now?  Would you still write?  If the answer is yes, you're a writer.  After all, you have to be.  You're writing.


  1. It seems very appropriate that you write a blog entry about how lucky you were to have married Nancy...and in your very next blog, talk about winning the lottery.

  2. Well spake, Man. Thanks for this.

    And here’s the surprise: there is always a rat race. Even if you are making a living as a full-time writer (or musician / performer), there are always deadlines and demands well beyond the craft of sitting down, cranking it out and showing up for the show or the book signing.

    Not that I, myself, am actually a full time anything.

    Right now in this late spring – as I did in May and June of last year – I am supplementing my income by doing a residency at an adolescent psychiatric hospital. The songs I make up with the kids there may be my very best work. Those songs will most likely fade away come July.

    But it’s better than winning the lottery and sitting around waiting for “rich and famous” to fade, as it always does.