Writers don’t make any money, let alone a living. This has once again become a hot topic. A writer behind a newspaper article in this country just a short time ago was praised for bravery for saying exactly this, but those of us who live half of our existences online could have told you this a good two centuries ago. (Fact, and not a smidgeon of hyperbole in sight.) And further to growing my own orchestra of trumpets, I wrote about this myself already last year, in 6 Reasons Why Writers Need To Stop Bloody Whining.
We all know that writing doesn’t make fortunes – not even for copywriters or journalists, who are paid an actual salary to string words together.
The most respected, lauded and well-paid journalists on this earth still wouldn’t make what a London banker would make over a working lunch on a Friday. There are a few authors out there who hit pay dirt, granted, but there are far fewer of them than there are popular musicians of average talent with a god complex.
No: to make money, authors should really first do something else. So on that note, (and having another job myself which pays 100% of my bills, thus providing at least 75% of the mental well-being I require to write in the first place), I have tried to formulate a list of suitable jobs for writers.
Just pick one, and have yourself a life.
A startling proportion of writers end up teaching writing anyway to make ends meet, so it would make a lot of sense to start out as a teacher in the first place, thus cementing both a steady income and a decent calendar of holidays during which to write. (Of course, if you are a teacher of subjects wholly abhorred by a great many children, such as maths, history, science, English, and Irish, you may lose the will to write altogether. However, that’s your problem.)
2. Night-time Security Guard
Where else are you going to get paid to be somewhere with only surveillance monitors, a computer and a fledgling story for company?
3. Retail/Sales Assistant
Retail is the perfect job for a writer, presuming you don’t actually own the shop/store/showroom in question. If you are an owner-manager, you have already signed your entire life over to your customers, so you can just forget about having another one.
However, if you are a sales assistant on the clock, your free time is in fact free to do frivolous things such as rearing children, washing, the plotting of major coups, or writing. The extra bonus of retail is the procession of new characters which enter your life every day. Watch them, mine them, and mercilessly rip them off in your stories.
4. Waste Contractor
What else to take inspiration from, than the detritus of the human race? If you want to get to know a culture, look through its bins. Ask any archaeologist… or celebrity hack.
Granted, you have to get up at Stupid o’Clock to make the fuel that keeps a nation of bored office workers on their arses, but in a serendipitous twist of fate, you also have the only other job where success depends on having all the right ingredients, in the right order, in a deceptively simple format, thus giving you a starting advantage. And as an added bonus, your working hours are already incompatible with society, so none of your loved ones ever expect to see you anyway.
6. Life Coach
This is a sneaky one. It’s like free market research. Your clients will tell you what they want out of life. Your job is to help them get it. Your other job will be to write stories about characters who always get what they want, or die trying.
Just try to disguise your clients a bit. If they figure out they’re all characters in your next bonkbuster, you might find something iffy in your letterbox.
7. And Finally…. Office Worker
There is no better place to light a fire of literary ambition under your arse than an insipid grey office environment in which the prevailing occupation is to push data around to no immediately discernible end, and for no tangible purpose. Ask Brian O’Nolan a.k.a. Myles na gCopaleen (civil servant), T.S. Eliot (bank clerk) or Harper Lee (reservations clerk).
And there you have it. There are jobs which pay the bills, and there’s writing.
Sure, you can devote your whole life to it and churn out works of literature so beauteous that they make a small portion of the reading market sad, euphoric and hungry, all at the same time. But there’s no guarantee that this is what your art will amount to, even if you live in a garret and write for eighteen hours a day.
So why not diversify, and perhaps fuel your imagination while you’re at it? Ultimately, the best job for a writer is any work which pays the bills but doesn’t take up lots of precious spare time as well.
And So To The Question
And so to you – yes, you, out there. What else do you do, to finance your writing, artistic, or musical
addictions – sorry, ambitions?