Leave Debtor’s Prison to the Dickens Characters

Over at her blog, Hazel Mitchell has probably one of the smartest posts I’ve seen about writing and finances. She says writers need to have a level of financial stability in order to write well.

“I am here to tell you that this career can be a money pit. And if all it is doing is sucking your resources and leaving you in crisis it’s not a career and you may need to back off a bit.”

Blunt? Maybe, but it’s excellent advice. Even lots of really successful writers can’t afford to just be writers. They can’t travel to all the conferences or go to all the workshops. In fact, I wonder how most people afford these kinds of things anyway. Being at the SCBWI conference in New York was fantastic, and I’m planning to attend the New England version as well, but I don’t think this is something I could do every year. It’s not quite the same, but as Hazel mentions, having the internet is an extremely useful substitute. You can still connect with writers on a daily basis and get inspiration without paying for a hotel room.

The Rake's Progress, Plate 7 by Hogarth

Hazel also mentions that writing is not like being a doctor. Doctors have to pay a lot for med school, but eventually they have a more secure financial living. (Although I’m sure lots of doctors could reply and tell me otherwise.) Even if you’re extremely talented and hardworking, there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever make it as a financially viable writer. So why go into debt over something that most likely won’t make you money?

I think it comes back to that job/career balance. It can be really tempting to say you’re going to give up the day job and just write, and things will eventually come together. But I know I tend to stress about where money for heat/rent is coming from if I don’t have a job and health benefits. It can be frustrating to lose major hours of your day to something that’s not your chosen career, but in the end it might be better to go to work everyday and write whenever you can and not be crushed by debt.

I’d really recommend checking out Hazel’s whole post. It’s not gentle advice, but it’s really worth hearing.

0 thoughts on “Leave Debtor’s Prison to the Dickens Characters

  1. Deborah the Closet Monster says:

    Even based on the excerpts included here and the tone of your post, I have to agree. Having spent a majority of my life in poverty–first as a child, and then as one who chose to go to law school out of state as a (very costly) escape–I’ve discovered that it’s easier to do almost everything better when I don’t have to worry about making ends meet. Freed from the mental burden of fretting about those things leaves me much more able to focus on the things I love, during the hours I’m not running around betwixt work and day care and the like. 😉

    • Annie says:

      Amen to that! Maybe some people can coast and not be worried, but like you said, the mental burden of financial distress is intense for most people.

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