Writer's Advice

Starving Artists and Working Writers: Don’t Feel Bad for Having a Career

Writing is hard work.

To be fair, anything worth doing is hard work.

But, this is a writing magazine.

If you’re reading this and you’re concerned this will be an attack on someone who makes a living out of being a full-time writer or has an economic support system that enables them to write full-time, rest easy, I’m not going after you guys.

Hell, I’m not going after anyone. I’m going after an idea.

And the idea is that you’re somehow a sellout for working a non-writing job to finance your writing career. Or that you’re less creative if you have early mornings, long commutes, and a 9-5 workday; or that you’re less creative for using those creative skills and talents to benefit The Man™

You’re not.

We all have to make money. Money isn’t the end-all be-all of things, but it’s a pretty neat way to keep a roof over your head and your stomach full. Money pays for gas which I use to drive to work and get groceries. Money lets me travel to see my family. Money is good. Money is not evil. Greed is bad, but wanting more resources for yourself and your own isn’t, so we must dispense with the mentality that making money is bad. There is no glory in intentionally being a starving artist.

A lot of you doing NaNo this year have jobs, school, and/or family obligations. My own path to winning NaNoWriMo in 2015 included working on my MFA thesis, still being a decent boyfriend and father to two furry children, and a 40-50 hour work-week. I’m not saying this to tell you “well, look at me, I’m awesome.” I’m saying it to tell you, “Hey, you’ve got a lot of crap on your plate, and it’s tough, but you’re able to do this.”

Example:

Person A  takes an entire day to loaf around and takes 7 hours to meet say, their daily NaNo word count of 1,667.

Person B comes home from work, tired, fed up, but knows there’s stuff to do around the house. As they do their home errands, they leave their computer open, eventually logging 1,667 in 2 hours.

Who was more productive?

The answer is neither.

You want to be a writer? It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you write. Sometimes, your work is going to stifle creativity. Sometimes stress will do a marvelous job at that, too. And you’ll feel cornered, you’ll feel like at that moment you’re done as a writer.

I want you to focus on that feeling and expel it outwards. A cornered predator is a dangerous predator. Use that energy to push forward, to drive, to hustle.

You want to be a starving artist? Make that figurative starving. A hunger for success, a hunger for your passion that you can only nurture by feeding it. You can do it. Sometimes you’ll miss on some things, but passion requires sacrifice. There’s been some nights where I’ve passed out on the cold glass of my desk. Some of you know this kind of feeling. In Spanish, we say, no puede ni con el alma when someone gets to that level. (“They can’t even carry their soul.”) I’m not saying do this every night, I’m saying that be open to the possibility that some nights are going to end like this.

Eric Thomas, in his ‘How Bad Do You Want It?’ speech says: “You already in pain, you already hurt. Get a reward from it!” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SuuPUKom2Nk)

Another good source is the ever-awesome Chuck Wendig, who as a hybrid author (self-published and traditionally-published) knows a lot about hard work. (http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/02/20/how-to-push-past-the-bullshit-and-write-that-goddamn-novel-a-very-simple-no-fuckery-writing-plan-to-get-shit-done/)

You, the working writer, are perfectly capable of this. You have a career. You have a job. You have mouths to feed. You have the passion for writing. You can have all those things without compromising even a little bit.

We believe in you.