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Making a Living at Writing

Sep 1, 2008
Hundreds of thousands of writers have had one united thought - "I wish I could make a living writing".

Is this your dream? Why do you think you can't have writing as a vocation? Is it the way you were raised? False humility? Feelings of insecurity and self-esteem? Lack of education? Perhaps all of the above, since it seems few writers have the courage to believe they can actually succeed.

Have you ever heard a factory worker say, "I can't reach my quota"? Or a pilot say, "I can't fly this plane"? Have you ever heard a teacher say, "I can't teach"? Writers must think they are the only ones to have the corner on "I can't".

When I was a child, I told Mom, "I can't" all the time, to which she would promptly reply, "Don't tell me you can't do something. Can't died in the poorhouse with his toes on upside down." Now please don't ask me what that means as I'm still puzzling over it, but eventually I got the idea that the word "can't" doesn't mean I am not ABLE to do something. It means I CHOOSE NOT to do it. Is that what writers really mean when they say they can't make a living writing?

Here's a NEWS FLASH for you: Even mediocre writers can make a living writing! So why do they oft times fail? Usually because they don't try hard enough, because they don't take enough classes, and/or because they never had a mentor. However, there is one more good reason why writers often fail these days, and that's because they are drowning in credit card debt.

For the sake of argument, let's say you are not encumbered with such debt, and that you would be satisfied with making a moderate living at writing. The question then becomes, how do you do it? Believe it or not, the answer is relatively simple once you understand how the system works.

Most articles don't sell the first time out, so let's pretend you submit an article to a magazine three times before it is accepted. Since each submission takes about three months response time, you have nine months tied up in that one article. The publisher will usually pay you upon publication, which will be another three to six months of waiting. That's a 12-15 month wait for one article. That's why magazines cannot be a full-time writer's primary source of livelihood.

The secret lies in selling articles to newspapers for $15 to $20 a shot, plus $5 extra for each picture. The articles will be shorter and quicker for you to write. Newspapers won't be so picky as to whether you have sold the article before. Further, there is an inexhaustible supply of newspapers to sell to. They buy faster, print daily to weekly, and pay immediately. You keep the articles rolling constantly, and RESELL the ones that have sold already. Over a period of time, you'll get to know the editors and you'll know what they're looking for. That's when almost every article will sell on first submission. And, while you're making your living that way, you can submit to magazines in your spare time.

I can almost hear someone say, "Yes, I've heard of making a living that way", yet there they sit, still wishing, and not doing what they know to do. Why is that? Maybe it's because writing for a living isn't as romantic as it sounds. Maybe it's because it's very hard work. Maybe it's because most of us wouldn't be so satisfied barely eeking out a living.

Or maybe it's because we are still saying, "I can't do that," when what we really mean is - "I choose not to put myself on the line."
About the Author
Deborah Owen is a grandmother who is dedicated to writers who really want to learn. To this end, she has established a new mentoring school at http://www.creativewritinginstitute.com - The Writer's Choice for learning. Opening October 5, 2008.
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