How To Make A Living As a Writer (Honestly)

How do you make a living as a writer? Get a full time job writing for a newspaper, magazine, or internet company. It’s impossible to make full time money stringing together part-time jobs. If you’re not regularly employed, view freelance gigs as supplemental income, not the way to pay your mortgage. There’s too much unpaid time looking for new work to prevent you from going broke. (internal link) Let me explain.

Query letters and book proposals take enormous amounts of time, only to have 90% or more of them rejected. A solid book proposal will take weeks, an article query (internal link) at least a day, if not more, to research and write. Travel may be required for both. A great deal of time is also spent investigating whom to send your proposal to, to see what title or publishing house you should approach. All queries must be well crafted and individually tailored to the person you are addressing. And all of this consistently rejected query work is unpaid. There’s more.

Right now I am waiting on a substantial check for the last magazine article I wrote. I submitted the article two weeks before last Thanksgiving. Yes, in 2017. The article has been published but I have still not been paid. While this situation is uncommon, you must be prepared for it to happen. You can only make a living at writing if you have money coming in to eat.

Aside from working for someone else on a regular basis, I have heard about another way. It demands that you have several book titles in print at once, and that each of these books needs revising every two years or so. Think computer books that go out of date when software comes out with revisions. Photoshop and Microsoft Word have undoubtedly provided many authors with regular income.

Writing as a profession is oversold, at least from a freelancer’s point of view. But there is no shame in writing for someone else. A guaranteed paycheck gives you the freedom to write in your spare time, without worrying if an article will be accepted, if it will only pay a hundred dollars, or if a check for it will come in soon.

Through my Vancouver employer I edit and post blogs and web pages for trial lawyers. I could see that kind of position being a full time job for someone who wanted it. Content creation jobs on the net are becoming more and more plentiful. Pick a profession that interests you and explore the possibilities if you want full time work. Otherwise, enjoy the tumult of writing part-time as a lower earning freelancer. Those hours and experience may eventually lead to the work you truly desire. Good luck.

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Lost In Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

Would we be any better in the next life?

“We passionately long for there to be another life in which we shall be similar to what we are here below. But we do not pause to reflect that, even without waiting for that other life, in this life, after a few years, we are unfaithful to what we once were, to what we wished to remain immortally. Even without supposing that death is to alter us more completely than the changes that occur in the course of our lives, if in that other life we were to encounter the self that we have been, we should turn away from ourselves as from those people with whom we were once on friendly terms but whom we have not seen for years . . . We dream much of a paradise, or rather of a number of successive paradises, but each of them is, long before we die, a paradise lost, in which we should feel ourselves lost too.”

Marcel Proust

How do you prefer your sleeping bag?

‘On the outside grows the furside, on the inside grows the skinside; So the furside is the outside, and the skinside is the inside.”

Herbert Ponting, The Sleeping Bag

Or put another way

HE killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside;
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That ’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside.

Anonymous, The Modern Hiawatha

And from the Master

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.

Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha III

Well Said

“A smile is the chosen vehicle for all ambiguities.”

Pierre, Melville

Like Keats, all poets seek to reason out beauty

For beauty being the best of all we know
Sums up the unsearchable and secret aims
Of nature

The Growth of Love, Robert Bridges

A Moment Lasting Forever

Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
which I gaze on so fondly today
were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms
like fairy gifts fading away
Thou wouldst still be adored
as this moment thou art
let thy lovliness fade as it will
and around the dear ruin each wish of my heart
would entwine itself verdantly still

Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms, Thomas Moore

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Where Alph, the Sacred River, Ran Through Caverns Measureless to Man

Legend says that opium helped Coleridge write this poem. If true, I’d like to place an order. Actually, I don’t understand much of it. Like this sentence, “As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing . . . ” Maybe that’s the opium talking. But the poem has more than enough richness and craft to make me happy.

Classic poems represent short, finished pieces of outstanding workmanship. They are complete and polished, compared to what I am writing. As I write my book, I look at how everything I pen is is unfinished. And how everything I write must be clear as crystal. No morphine induced musings.

Everything I write now will be revised. My deadline is August 1, 2019. I should have the time, I should be happy with it then. But right now, a dozen different topics need addressing, another forty thousand words needs writing. It is wonderful to read and reread people like Coleridge who long ago completed their struggles.

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Colerridge

Or, a vision in a dream. A Fragment.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean;
And ’mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!
The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight ’twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Illustration from here http://www.alice-duke.com/archive/

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And No Birds Sing

Does some writing remind you of others? To me, these three seem linked.

La Belle Dame sans Merci:

A Ballad by John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true’.

She took me to her Elfin grot,
And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
Thee hath in thrall!’

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.

The Sweet Cheat Gone

by Albert Proust.

Book Six of Six in the series Remembrances of Things Past. Alternatively, In Quest of Lost Time.

“Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” How much farther does anguish penetrate in psychology than psychology itself! A moment ago, as I lay analysing my feelings, I had supposed that this separation without a final meeting was precisely what I wished, and, as I compared the mediocrity of the pleasures that Albertine afforded me with the richness of the desires which she prevented me from realising, had felt that I was being subtle, had concluded that I did not wish to see her again, that I no longer loved her. But now these words: “Mademoiselle Albertine has gone!” had expressed themselves in my heart in the form of an anguish so keen that I would not be able to endure it for any length of time. And so what I had supposed to mean nothing to me was the only thing in my whole life. How ignorant we are of ourselves.

Norwegian Wood by The Beatles

I once had a girl
Or should I say she once had me
She showed me her room
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay
And she told me to sit anywhere
So I looked around
And I noticed there wasn’t a chair

I sat on a rug biding my time
Drinking her wine
We talked until two and then she said
“It’s time for bed”

She told me she worked
In the morning and started to laugh
I told her I didn’t
And crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke I was alone
This bird had flown
So I lit a fire
Isn’t it good Norwegian wood?

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Some Shape of Beauty Moves Away The Pall

A poorly worded ad caught my attention. See below. It meant to capture Keats but he is not easily seized.

Yesterday’s post by Shelley was from 1820. This excerpt is from 1818. I understand they were not friends.

“A thing of beauty is a joy forever” is an exceptional line. But “Some shape of beauty moves away the pall” easily reasons why beauty is joyous, why it counters our dark spirits.

Besides keeping a quiet bower for us and a sleep full of sweet dreams.

Endymion by John Keats

(an excerpt)

A Poetic Romance

BOOK I

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

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The Cloud By Percy Bysshe Shelley

Unnoticed, my last post was my 500th. I meant to celebrate that event with poetry. Better late than never. A cenotaph, by the way, is a tomb honoring a person or persons whose remains lie elsewhere. There is a wonderful video at the bottom of this post. Possibly the best five minutes you’ll have all day.

The Cloud

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night ’tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning my pilot sits;
In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;
Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag,
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardours of rest and of love,
And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,
As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the Moon,
Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear,
May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
Like a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,
And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow,
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-coloured bow;
The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

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Why I Don’t Use Social Media to Promote My Work (yet)

Format Magazine (external link) is seeking people to write on this topic:

Opinion: Why I don’t use social media to promote my work

Are you an artist or creator who doesn’t use Instagram/Facebook/Twitter to promote their work? We’re seeking someone who can talk about why they don’t use social media to share their art or connect with clients, and how staying off social has even helped their career. This could be focused on one platform (“Why I don’t post my photography on Instagram”) or social media in general. Looking for a specifically professional, not personal, perspective on avoiding social media.

Social may be a way to promote existing work, but I’m doubtful it can provide new work. In the case of a writer, new work comes from an online writing portfolio, previously done articles, and from carefully crafted and well researched query letters.

I do not know any writer who has landed an assignment from a tweet or an Instagram post. I also do not know any editor who trolls social, looking for a writer. Writers come to them, not the other way around.

As my book nears completion, I am sure I will be drawn into the whirlpool of social to promote the title’s sale. I’ll have an existing product to sell. That’s quite different from having a service to sell, such as writing. In this case of future writing there is no product yet to sell, unless one wants to write complete articles, trying to find a home for them later on. Good luck with that.

In selling a service such as writing, getting new assignments takes the same old tack: reading writers’ guidelines, researching new periodicals, determining editors to correspond with, and, as always, making pitches.

As it is used right now, I see little reason to engage in social. Writing blog posts, as a way to keep a writing portfolio website current, seems a good method to keep a web presence. But it can only do so much. The best approach remains to determinedly and actively pursue work by developing contacts in the field and by keeping query letters and correspondence with editors coming. An Instagram photo can’t do that.

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