Surviving as a writer is not just about working hard - you have to work smart. ‘You have to do more’ is not as workable as ‘You have to be cleverer’. The harsh financial facts of life are what they are and trying to make a living as a writer sometimes feels like a hunt movie where you are the prey. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Here are some coping strategies:
1. Pay attention to the rules.
Learn the patterns and conventions which make stories really work. Practice using them and then write within them in your own voice. The best solutions for the piece of fiction you are working on are already built into the underlying patterns of it, but you need to discover what those patterns are. Michelangelo supposedly said ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.’ The same applies to writing, but you have to know what you are looking for.
2. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Lots of people want to be writers because it’s a great job. And it is! You are in control of your schedule, your inner life, your output. Writers are generally fantastic people too. Make it worthwhile to be one with all that you do and say. Treat writers with courtesy and respect, including yourself.
3. Make writing your life.
Instead of clinging to the last traces of a ‘getaway route’ back to another life, timetable yourself briskly into the writing chair and oversee your own progress alertly. Look at your work schedule every week and see how your targets look and act accordingly.
4. Stay upbeat.
It’s all about new horizons, a better future, an invitation to readers to really understand and come to love your work and therefore life. When this is played down, put alongside ordinary jobs, it's being betrayed. The atmosphere of what you are doing is a lot more important than the money.
Things can get lonely. You can feel lost within a silent bubble at times. Write to readers, respond to comments on social media (politely). Do your best to get communication pouring out! Create an atmosphere which encourages them to stay in touch with you. You will learn loads from doing this.
6. Use the data on how stories really work.
There are a lot of story-writing methods out there.
Clarendon House materials are refreshingly wonderful and simple. If you set out to really understand the secret language of fiction, to get to know it well, you’ll come to love it because it will free you. Just as you learned your native language as a child and were then able to participate in life, familiarising yourself with the underlying patterns in fiction, no matter what the genre, will empower you to create fiction.
Of course, pure joy doesn’t pay bills. Society judges whether or not you are basically successful or unsuccessful by your balance sheet. It’s just a measure. Good income means good food and a roof over your head. You might not be in it for the money, but it matters. Apply these basics and you will start to see light at the end of the tunnel.