“Can you get paid for what you’ve written enough to support you and your family?”
That’s what it all comes down to – isn’t it?
IF you can, then you are good enough to be a writer. If you cannot, then you’ll need to do something else to make sufficient money to support yourself and family and write as a hobby or part-time job.
How would you know if you’re good enough to write for a career? Well, the only thing that matters is that you’re getting paid for it. Can you sell articles? Books? Songs? Poems? If you can sell them – you can probably be a writer.
Everything else – high motivation, personality, writing skill (beyond a certain minimum), or having arms (see photo) – isn’t important, if you can sit down and crank out written works that sell. Your English and writing skills don’t even need to be that great. You can write childrens books if you can’t write for academics.
[ re: photo – how in the H did he crease those jeans so sharp? ]
If you can’t write novels, you can write short stories like the guy I wrote about the other day. From March 2010 to October 2010 he cranked out over 80 short stories – and collections of short-stories, and is selling them at Amazon Kindle. My guess is that he’s making enough to survive. Does the guy have skill? I read a sample, and he writes well enough to understand. That’s all that’s required apparently.
Do you need to be a master writer to make a living selling your writing?
No. I’m one good example of this. Though I couldn’t tell you even one rule of English grammar, I’ve written many papers in graduate school and received A’s on them. Some of them I wrote at such a high level I was charged (informally – accused over the phone by my professor) of plagiarizing! I straightened her ass out real quick with a visit to the dean of our department. It ended up that she didn’t understand what I wrote. The Dean did though, and the charge was dismissed. I got an A in her class too. Dr. Susan Kelly, where in the F are you now?
You know what she said to back up her story? She said her dead husband told her that I was a liar. Not joking. This is what I went through in graduate school. Was it a good learning experience? Not for me it wasn’t. For her, I sure hope so.
I wrote for a long time on websites – and, though I never sold a story, my articles have been read by over 4 million people on these sites – and I had some good feedback on the articles. I had an idea I might be able to sell something I’d written – but, no proof. At that point I was as clueless as I could be about the viability of being a full-time writer.
Nothing is sure until you sell something.
I wrote some ebooks and put them on my websites for free. One of them is at AimforAwesome.com – What is the Point of Life?. Another free book was downloaded over 131,000 times. Again, good feedback on the books. Some said I should write books and sell them.
Was I able to be a writer yet? No, I wasn’t.
I applied to be the guide for GoThailand.About.com. About.com has some decent writers, but I wasn’t surprised I was chosen. I began to have confidence in my writing. Even then – did I know I could be a writer? No. I wrote for about 4 months there when I realized I was foolish building up their content at a site I didn’t own. Even though I was being paid to write there.
Did I know I could be a writer? I figured it out right then. I could make a decent amount of money by writing – for others. I wanted to write for myself though.
Thing is – you’ll never know whether or not you can be a writer until you start getting paid for what you’ve written. My brother and sister both can write worlds better than I can technically. When my brother writes it’s like god is choosing the perfect words to get the point across. Can he make a living at writing? I think so. I really wish he would try. Instead, he’s a software tester.
If you fail as a writer in whatever chosen area you’re writing – you need to find another area you might be better at. You might start out writing general fiction romance and then sell very few books and realize you’ll never make it as a romance writer – and quit writing.
But maybe your real forte is in writing techno-thrillers, but because you have no experience there, you don’t try. Personally I like writing about religion because I have pretty unique views that I want to share with others. Unfortunately, not many people jump on that train because I’m not a theist or an atheist. I’m an agnostic. There might be a god, there might not. Who can possibly say?
Writers, you need need to find out what you can write and sell. It might not be what you want to write, but, if you can sell it, and if you want to be a writer – you can.
For myself, if I find that I can’t sell enough non-fiction and fiction thrillers at the 20-30K word level I may drop down to 10,000 words and see if I can tell a better story at that length. If I can’t manage that, I might team up with an illustrator here in Thailand and attempt to sell children’s books. If I can’t do that, I’m may create my own Teletubbies-like videos and put them on Youtube. If that doesn’t work – something else.
You must have options. Just because you can’t write exactly what you want and make a living from it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t continue writing in another area, or another style.
Being a writer is one of the coolest careers you can possibly have because the entire game has changed. You can now write whatever the hell you want, publish it yourself, and see if you get buyers. If not, write something else. Before you had to clear the lit experts sitting in their offices in NYC or Chicago. Now you bypass them completely and take control of your own destiny.
Start writing if you haven’t.
Start attempting to sell if you haven’t.
Start changing what you are doing if you can’t sell.
Write as a hobby and try to sell it while working in a beer production plant if you can’t seem to come out a game winning author.
(Photo: istolethetv at Flickr.com)