Mo’ money, mo’ problems (or, Why economic renumeration doesn’t matter to me)

One of the reasons I moved back to my hometown last month was, of course, so I could raise my kid around his grandparents.  But another reason was because I had a great job opportunity – teaching students with multiple economic, social, and academic barriers holding them back from graduation.  It’s the same students I taught before, and I’m really excited about the potential impact of this position.

Part of our training this summer involved learning the ins and outs of a career inventory program we’ll use in the classroom.  According to my results (athletic trainer, farm management, zoologist, writer) my ideal job would be writing about the goats I train for a traveling circus. Now, why did I get those results?  The program matches you in three categories:  skills, interests, and values.  Values is what influenced my results the most, because I scored a 3 out of 100 on prestige, 10 out of 100 on job security, and 15 out of 100 on salary.

Perfect qualities for a writer (or a public school teacher; despite what certain politicians and talking heads want you to think, teachers are not underworked and overpaid).  Many nonwriters ask me why I write, or how much I’ve made off my published stories, and are incredulous of my responses.  There are several things you need to keep in mind if you want to be a writer:

  • Unless you’re hitting that bestseller’s list, most people (especially family and friends) aren’t going to see your writing as more than just a hobby.  They’re going to question why you stay up all night editing if you aren’t even going to get paid for your work.  And don’t even bring up how many rejections you’ve had.  It’s a lot of work for not a lot of return.  And as all your nonwriter acquaintances will tell you, writing is like driving a car; anyone can do it.
  • And because everyone can do it, there’s a lot of people self-publishing that you’ll have to compete with.  The editor’s slush pile is neverending. Unless you’re able to come up with the next big thing, there’s always someone there to take your place.
  • You’re never going to be able to quit your day job.  According to an article I read at Bubble Cow, chances are you’re not going to make much money off your writing.  The median in the UK in 2008 was about $8000, meaning that 50% of writers earned less than that.  I recently talked to a fellow writer about this.  He said he’s sold exactly four copies of his book, and he knows three of those buyers.

So, if writing is about lots of work for little recognition and even littler financial gain, why do it?  Because you enjoy it.  Because you love it.  Because it calms you.  Because it gives you purpose.  Because you have to.  Because, like teaching, if you can reach just one person and make them think, make them laugh, make them cry (okay, maybe not just like teaching), it’ll all be worth it in the end.

It’s all about what matters to you.

3 Comments

  1. “Because you have to.”

    True, because the brain will burst, if those zillion ideas do not get written or expressed in some form. Good post 🙂

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