Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Living By Your Wits

I’ve noticed something interesting and rather, in my opinion, hypocritical, in several on-line writer’s forums.

Many of the participants classify writers. Not just the age-old struggle between “literary” writers and “commercial” writers (which, fortunately, in this age of marketing-before-all-especially-before-writing seems to be winding down). But many of these writers consider the only “real” writers to be those who write fiction.

Today, as you go through your day, look around and see how much you read in passing: a newspaper, a billboard, a brochure, information on a website, watch a commercial in between programs. All of these bits were written by someone. Someone who is making a living doing this.

A writer who is walking the walk and making a living by his or her pen.

What’s interesting about the so-called writers who huff and puff and look down their pens at working writers is that most of them aren’t published. Oh, yes, they’re working on a novel, but, you see, there’s really no time, what with the husband or wife, and the children’s activities and all that. But, they’re thinking about the novel they’ll write someday; meanwhile, they’re going to get an agent for it and work on a marketing plan.

Of course, they don’t have to count on their writing in order to live. Either they have a 9-5 job they hate and plan to write “when they get around to it” or they’re living off a spouse’s full-time job.

A writer is someone who writes. Not someone who talks about doing it “when there’s time”, but someone who puts the butt down in the chair and gets it done.

The next phase of that life is to get paid for one’s work. When you have to pay the rent and bills by your pen, you learn quite quickly to get rid of the lack of time or the blocks, or whatever other excuses keep you from doing the work. You sit down and don’t get up until it’s done. You learn to compress the process to fit the deadline. You get the work in on time – and with quality – in order to get the check.

Arthur Miller once told me, “You’ll never be a writer until you have to rely on it for your income” and he was right. Once it’s life-or-death, all the obstacles evaporate – if you’re going to survive.

How many of you have the courage to survive by your pen? Because, in addition to talent and a strong work ethic, courage is the enormous component in the equation. Being a writer is genuinely “living by your wits.”

--Devon Ellington


At 9:49 AM, Blogger Colin said...

Turning to writing to earn a living is a big step, but once you start the journey it becomes immediately worthwhile.

I'm in the process of doing that just now and I've never been busier. Never been happier either.



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