Writing & Money

The other day, my Facebook-loving teenager casually mentioned to me that, on average, writers make $149K per year. “You’re doing something wrong, mom.”

These lines are full disclosure that, in fact, I am not earning $149K per year. The children and I are, however, still afloat. While I know all kinds of writers, many of whom are terrific writers as well as decent people, no one I know has ever undertaken the vocation of writing for money. Writers may be many things, but we’re generally not stupid.

When I taught a one day class at Johnson State College a year ago with Dede Cummings, my most useful piece of advice for aspiring writers was two-pronged: write and keep your expenses low. I really wasn’t kidding on either count.

Money is merely practical. Writing is art. Both are necessary – in my life (and my daughters’ lives, at least). So it was with real pleasure that the day I received a royalty check from my novel, I also met a woman I hadn’t seen for a few years. She had read my book (– and loved it; I write this with real pleasure), because another woman gave her the novel and told her to read it. That woman didn’t know me and didn’t know I had any connection to her friend. She is my ideal reader: someone who loved my book and passed it to another reader, as I do with so many books I love.

What a piece of luck was this chance encounter in the co-op’s coffee aisle, on a subzero and sunny day.

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

– E. L. Doctorow


Living Room Windows, Mid-December

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