A Writer’s Life — is it worth it?
It’s been a while since my last post (by my standards). And no, it’s not because I’ve been sitting around thinking about just how awesome Rise of the Planet of the Apes was (and it was).
Apart from the usual and the unusual errands and chores and busted tyres and rodent extermination, I’ve been busy planning a few things. With my masters degree in writing almost in hand and another country move in the works (to Asia this time), it’s time to start thinking about the next phase of my working life. CVs, scans of published works, contacting contacts to make more contacts — I’m doing it all.
Naturally, if I wanted a life of material comfort (though it wouldn’t be much of a ‘life’), I could easily return to the law, but doing so would be against everything I’ve promised myself over the last few years, and to be frank, it makes my bladder shudder just thinking about it. I had a nightmare the other night where I was back at the old firm and if I hadn’t woken up from the fright I might have embarrassed myself in bed. Living in a constant state of stress and terror doing something that I can barely tolerate can’t be the answer for the next 30+ years of my life.
No, any career from here must be a career in writing. I don’t know if it will last or how it will turn out, but if I don’t at least give it a shot I’m going to regret it forever.
The first thing most people say when they hear about someone (such as myself) wanting to write, is that it’s really really hard. Really hard. Don’t quit your say job. Hardships are ahead — financially, socially, emotionally. Success stories are one in a million (well, I guess it depends on your definition of ‘success’ — is it JK Rowling or a relatively comfortable living?).
But surely it can’t be that bad, or else there won’t be that many writers out there. My advantage (or at least what I consider to be an advantage) is that I’m not fussy about the kind of work I do, as long as it involves writing (for the smart-arses out there, that excludes contracts and legal advices) and, as the great George W Bush once said, puts food on the family.
I’m quite flexible with the field or the area or the type of writing. I can write formal, technical, colloquial, serious, comical, satirical or just plain old conversational. Just looking around online in Sydney, there appear to be quite a few relatively well-paid jobs for someone in my position. Legal publishing is a pretty decent route to go, or at least as a stepping stone. Traditional publishing and media jobs are available — not quite as well paid but not as bad as I had expected.
But this time I’m heading to Asia and from what I’ve heard, writers get paid peanuts (sometimes literally). There are plenty of jobs that require English writing, so the concern is not to find a job, it’s finding the right job.
There are options. I can try educational publishing and write books which help local children learn English. I can go into media and work at a newspaper or magazine that publishes in English. I can try academic writing/editing, helping out local professors polish up their works in English. I can try technical writing for a company. I can even try something in government. None of these pay well by Western standards but at least I have absolutely no problem seeing myself in one of these roles. And all of them will provide me with much needed experience.
Perhaps supplementing a day job with freelance writing or editing might be feasible (I’m reading up on that), but it’s not easy for newbies without the experience or portfolio to back them up. I was just looking around online randomly for freelancing opportunities and saw that quite a few people offer $1 for every 500 words! Can you believe that? A dollar!
That said, a lot of freelancers I’ve come across love what they do and wouldn’t change it for anything in the world. I’d like to be able to say that one day.
I think I am prepared mentally for what lies ahead. I’m confident in my abilities but I know hard work and luck are imperative — though I believe former swimmer Grant Hackett said it best when he said that the harder he worked, the luckier he got.
If any writers out there are reading, please share your story and how you got to where you are today. Was it worth it? And any tips, pointers or pearls of wisdom you might be able to bequeath?