How do writers support themselves?

February 15, 2010

A reader found my blog this weekend by typing into Google: How do writers support themselves?

I often wonder about this myself. I know there are authors out there who make a living off their books. (In fact, I met some this weekend at the fabulous Woodstock Writers Festival. You should go next year.) And I know how to make a living as a journalist because I’ve done it. What I don’t know is how people who don’t fall into those categories manage to pay their rent, afford car insurance and go out to eat once in a while.

How can I afford to write this book full time? I live with my parents. That’s right: I’m 29, and after nearly a decade on my own, I moved back home. I’m so lucky my parents are willing to have me. Living at home allows me to write instead of working a paying job. (I also have had savings from my job with the Houston Chronicle and I freelance occasionally.)

There are as many ways to support the writing life as there are writers. And I think we can all learn from one another by sharing how we do it. So…

How do you support yourself and your family? Do you hold down a non-writing full-time job and carve out time to write on weekends? Are you one of the coveted authors who makes enough money through books and speaking gigs? Are you putting most of your energy into a writing project and working a part-time job on the side to make ends meet? How would you like to support yourself financially?

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    18 Replies to “How do writers support themselves?”

    • Claire King says:

      I run two businesses, one is a gite, the other is professional and requires trips away from home. I write when the kids are asleep (oh yes I have two of them as well, to finance). Fortunately I am blessed with a self-empoyed husband who is willing to pick up the parenting when I’m doing the paid work, and rub my shoulders when I’m writing.

      How would I like to support myself financially? By selling film rights to my next book!

      It has happened to others, why not to me?

      Bon courage with your book!

    • krpooler says:

      I have a fulltime non-writing job so carving out writing time is the ultimate challenge. The rules seem to imply that one should not be in it for the money nor quit a day job. I admire anyone who is able to support oneself by me that means that a person is either working very hard to make it happen and/or gets a streak of luck by publishing a bestseller. Right now, I’m not in it for the money but the best scenerio would be to get paid for what you love to do the would love to be able to pay the rent with my writing..

      Kathy Pooler

    • I would love to support myself and spouse through book sales and movie rights, but that’s still a dream. I waited until retirement age to go into writing full time so we currently live off retirement funds.

    • jessiecarty says:

      When I was working Full Time I wrote in between files I was working or on the weekends. During Lunch. The typical and it worked just fine. Now that I take care of the house I spend more time writing, but honestly I think keeping up with blogs, volunteering to help other writers and social networking is almost a full-time job that just took the place of my old job, I just don’t have the commute 🙂

      I know a lot of writers who teach in various capacities but most just hold down a regular job of some sort or having really supportive spouses (male and female, I know several male writers who are mr. mom)

    • I have a full time job as a customer service manager. i write nights and weekends. Most nights I multi-task writing and promoting.

    • Karen Walker says:

      My hubby is my sugar daddy!

    • Shelly W. says:

      I’m a stay-at-home mom, so my husband supports me (tee hee!–I know what a luxury that is), but what I don’t have is TIME. Argh! It’s so frustrating to just try to carve an extra two hours of writing time out of a jam-packed day.

      • Alexis Grant says:

        It’s like they say — when you’ve got the time, you don’t have the money, and when you’ve got the money, you don’t have the time! Argh back at ya!

        • nbwriter says:

          Dear Shelly & Alexis,

          Many writers mention “time” as a delimiter of their creative efforts. Since I’ve written since childhood, I began to wonder exactly what is meant by “time”. (I realize this is a philosophical question, nevertheless, a fascinating one).

          Einstein discovered “time” is relative (to one’s speed). Therefore, “time” slows down the faster one goes. Theoretically, then – time ceases to exist if one is traveling at the speed of light. Translating this idea into practical reality is linked to our organizational abilities.

          From a writer’s perspective, I believe organization is the key to successful writing. Unless we “make” time for the craft we love, we’re always going to allow other (often mundane) pursuits delimit our progress.

          What do you think?

          Kind Regards, nbwriter

    • Marianne says:

      I saved up so that I could take off 6 months to finish my mss. Those savings are about to run out so I’m looking at getting back into paid work. I’m hoping to get contract work and consulting so that I can still have the occasional solid burst of writing time. Even while I’ve been writing ‘full-time’ I teach yoga every day to get my grocery money.

    • jessiecarty says:

      oh forgot some other good options that my writer friends have mentioned is temping – especially in a big city and substitute teaching (although i tried that it and it was awful) but they both give you the freedom to pick the days you work 🙂

    • Well, I write erotica, and that seems to bring in a nice but little stream. I did choose to move into a tiny camper, which didn’t feel like a sacrifice to me, as I can pick up and move as the heart desires.

      My husband makes some money, but I have to say that he spends (wastes) most of it, if not all. Drives me nuts. We don’t have health insurance.

      Of course, I would like to make enough from my writing to move into a fifth-wheel toy hauler that has a loft for two kid beds, make the back “garage” into a writing and piano room, have health insurance, and more spending money.

      Yeah, yeah, yeah. Write faster.

    • Jennifer says:

      Right now I work a full time job and I’m getting a small business going. The goal: to work from home on the business and write in my free time. Sure, I’ll have less free time than I have now, but doing something I love as opposed to something I hate will make all the difference! A surge of energy. Ah I can’t wait.

      Indeed, I would LOVE to make enough money from my books that my husband wouldn’t have to work and he could throw himself into his photography full time. And there would be movie deals. Oh yes, that would be deals in the plural 🙂


    • Megan Hill says:

      I find there’s lots of ways to write for a living. I’m currently pulling in most of my living through grant writing for non profits, but also through freelancing for magazines, newspapers and websites. And random jobs found online!

    • julielomoe says:

      Like Jane, I’m retired, and so is my husband, so I have the luxury of writing fulltime if I so desire (and I desire a lot of other diversions, so I woldn’t say I’m a fulltime writer at present, but almost).

      We both paid our dues for many years with New York State, so we’ve got adequate retirement income. But I managed to write two novels while I was working fulltime as an art therapist at a pscyhiatric center with acutely psychotic patients. Neither is published – maybe I’ll resurrect them someday – but it IS possible if you’re sufficiently driven.

      My husband published about 7 books – nonfiction how-to, mostly, and he NEVER made a decent living off the books. So we’re both aware how difficult it is.

    • islesam says:

      I work fulltime to support myself & my daughter. Writing is squeezed in wherever it can fit. Alas, I don’t have the luxery of quitting work to write full time & work on my books.

      Maybe I need to marry rich. Filthy, dirty rich.

      Anyway, found you because a fellow writing pal listed you as a Prolific Writer participant – thought I’d pop by & say hello! I currently live in Houston – so good luck with all that nasty snow & cold. I don’t think I can leave it again!

    • simonemarie says:

      I ask people if they want their martinis up or on the rocks, how they’d like their salmon cooked, and if they’d like to talk to a manager about the temperature of their asparagus. Yes, I waitress. I used to work full time as a technical writer, but I found that juggling that, my freelance work, and my fiction/poetry was next to impossible.

      I’d love, however, to quit waitressing. The rest of my income comes from freelancing, and I imagine a day when I could live completely off that — and eventually a book.

      Just discovered your blog from a link on Matador — so far, I like it a lot!

    • Brenda Love says:

      I’m with the other writer who said,” When you have the time you don’t have the money.When you have the money,you don’t have the time.” I wish I had a supportive Sugar Daddy to take care of me while I write. My kids are just about tire of my writing dreams and about to toss me out on the street. LOL! I have two novels published and working on a third. All the while, I’m jobless, houseless, and happy writing my novels! Oh, and I baby sit a lot. So,they need me as much as I need them. I’m in great need of a new PC though.


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