“How Do Writers Make a Living?” and Other Formidable Questions

Something mysterious seems to happen every time I sit down and try to put order to my creative impulses. Two hours disappear, yet my word doc is blank. My recent browser history overflows with articles titled “Are MFA programs really worth it?” and “10 SEO Tips all Content Strategists Should Know” and “The 5 Secrets to Increasing Your Productivity.” I’m suddenly years-deep into the blog of a “designer and mother of 6″ who somehow blogs for a living and summers in France (is her husband rich? Does she have a rotation of nannies? I cannot sleep until I find out). In a flash of anxiety-induced impulse shopping, I purchase an annual subscription to AWP (not a bad idea, but by no means built into my budget and don’t I already have enough to read?), and several books that profess to unlock hidden paths to writerly wealth (they got published, so they must have something worthwhile to say, right?).

Ok, so maybe the mystery boils down to good ole’ fashioned procrastination and a little self-doubt. But this kind of research is fueled by questions that only become more legitimate and more pressing as I look into a full-time writing careers: Where do novelists get their income? If the answer is professorship and not publication, how do they afford graduate programs? Can a writing career only happen in the off-hours of a 9-5 work schedule? How do freelance writers get jobs? And where do they get the health insurance and other benefits crucial to supporting a family?

Finding helpful answers to these questions and the resources to move forward is, it turns out, a full-time job – one that’s already claimed many hours I had set aside for writing. Yet, building this knowledge base is clearly a crucial aspect of the arduous quest to paid writership.

Personally, I’ll admit I’m in a comparatively good financial spot for now. On the scale of economic feasibility of writing, my lack of debt and all the advantages I gained from growing up middle class put me in range of going freelance for awhile, or taking an unpaid internship on the side if need be. Most aspiring writers and professionals trying to break into the content creation field don’t have that option.

Still, now I’m back to job-hunting in the bay area and am increasingly aware of that approaching 26th birthday which signals the end to my health insurance coverage on my parents’ plan. My job search is also revealing that some paid writing gigs are somewhat less about sophistication of craft and storytelling, and more about years of experience with SEO techniques, HTML, Google Analytics, and Photoshop. I am lucky enough to have some exposure to these professional skills, but only by virtue of a wide variety of unpaid internships and an unusually versatile past job role. And even so, most of these skills requires constant updating and re-education as trends and technology change.

How do writers keep up? How do we stay current on all of these professional skills – the trending Twitter hashtags, the ad rules on Facebook – and cultivate nascent creative writings? If the secret to paid writing gigs lies in sophisticated inbound marketing skills, should word-loving bibliophiles prioritize marketing and communications certifications over MFA programs and writing classes? Because, as most of us know from balancing typical full-time jobs with a personal life, there’s often not much spare time left for extra-professional (or creative) endeavors.

There are countless queries, worries, and pleas like my own out there. There also actually are plenty of useful resources for writers. But discovery of many of these tools requires a little digging – and maybe a little more inbound marketing on the organizations’ part.

So, every time I unearth an especially insightful article, a resource-rich website that seems a promising clue on the writing career treasure map, I’ll be posting it to Booklured’s Resources for Writer Section. Hopefully, what starts as a record of my accumulated research on professional writing will grow to be its own resource for other aspiring writers.

Found a great resource for writers that you’d like to share? Feel free to post in the comments section below.

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