Hard Work and Writing
This is from a facebook discussion with Joe Lansdale and Adam-Troy Castro (among others) about how hard is it to write, compared to working in factory, and how hard should one work at writing. I haven't reprinted other people's comments, because I don't have permission. And I have made changes. This is the story of my life. Write and rewrite.
I'm a slow writer, and I take a lot of time off from writing. Because of this, I was never able make a living writing, and I had to work day jobs. I liked them, but they left little time or energy for writing. This was a kind of vicious circle or Catch 22. Many writers experience it. You need to time to write, but how can you get it, if you are not yet making a living at writing? The usual solution is to have a spouse or partner with a good day job -- or you inherit money, or you live in a garret without health insurance, or you have iron discipline and a lot of energy and both write and hold a job.
I'm writing more now that I'm retired. But it took three years for me to get back in the habit of writing and to enjoy it again. Could I have made a living from writing if I had worked at it harder? I doubt it. Not a good living with health insurance. I paid the health insurance bill at my last job. Two years before I left the job, the bill for me -- one person, in an insurance group -- was more than $12,000 a year. In order to live comfortably and safely, I would have had to make at least $12,000 more as a writer than I was making as the financial manager of a small nonprofit. Probably considerably more, since I would have been buying insurance as an individual.
This changed after I turned 65. The cost of insurance went way down, since Medicare took care of hospitalization; and I stopped working shortly thereafter. As it happened, I was laid off. But after I looked around for another job for a while and finally actually realized that I was old enough to retire, I retired.
I think Joe is right about the way to make a living from writing. Do it. And Adam is right that people vary. I am horrified by people who give up writing or don't pay adequate attention to writing, because they don't care enough. But that's my response, and it says more about me than anyone else. There is more to life.
I've never had a really hard physical job, though I unloaded boxes of blue jeans once or twice for a friend who was a truck driver and sick. I went along as the lumper, the technical term. Blue jeans are heavy. I enjoyed it, because it was new and different. And I did a few years working in warehouses, but it was light warehousing, and I mostly liked it. Eight hours of light exercise, for which I got paid. It solved the problem of how to stay fit. And I met interesting people. Most of the time, I worked in offices. At the end of my work life, I did accounting for small nonprofits, which meant waking up in the middle of the night worrying about how I was going to make payroll, and the people who needed to get paid were friends. That is another kind of hard. Writing is easier, and I am better at writing. In the end, I was not a world class warehouse worker or accountant. I was merely okay. It feels good to do something for which I have actual ability and skill.