Writers & Debt

An excellent Read- The- Whole- Thing piece by Megan McArdle in the Atlantic:


“…writers are, as a class, extraordinarily at risk. They spend their twenties, and often their thirties, living paycheck to paycheck. They are extremely well educated, and all that education is not only expensive, but builds expensive habits. You end up with a lot of friends who make much more money than you–who don’t even realize that a dinner with $10 entrees and a bottle of wine is an expensive treat, not a cheap outing to catch up on old times. Our business is in crisis, and we lose jobs often. When we do, it’s catastrophic.


“Until we’re comfortable with talking publicly about the fact that we don’t make much money and likely never will, that our lives are risky, and that this has obvious impacts on our ability to consume on the level of our educational peers, writers will keep getting into trouble. “

Sage advice. But would I have listened in my twenties or even my thirties?

2 thoughts on “Writers & Debt”

  1. Won’t work. Telling people how incredibly hard and risky it is to be a freelancer gains you nothing except more people telling you to get a different job (usually a ‘real’ job.) The up and comers and wannabees don’t listen because they think they’ll be instantly successful and never have problems getting work, or getting paid for work done. Or they have the attitude that they’ll do anything (I get a lot of ‘but I’ll take the trash out, anything!’) to get the job and being paid poorly or having to fight to get paid is par for the course.

    My beloved husband did a very honest interview in a big comic industry mag about how we lived in our van for almost a year in 2003-4. People, regular people, were incredibly brutal and judgmental about it. The fans, who do not understand how the industry works, were the absolute worst.

    IMO, there is very little to be gained for anyone by being honest about having to keep months of income in the bank in case pay or work is slow in coming. They do not get planning your budget to run on an absolute minimum no matter what your income is at the moment, they don’t get that having extra cash is not actually having extra cash if you are freelancer. Unless they have been through it, they don’t get it.

  2. I’ve pursued the wannabe writer route for the last few years after retiring from teaching. The change in perspective teaches me that freelance writers are brave souls, maybe crazy brave. Teaching in rural schools was anything but lucrative, but my job was always secure and the paychecks arrived on time.

    I keep wondering if Shakespeare could get published if he wrote today. I want to think he could, but I bet he wouldn’t be rich.


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