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Disabled Writers

edited April 2015 in Writing
First of all I would like to say hello to you all, I am new to the site and forum. I hope I have added this question to the relevant forum thread, however I apologise if I have not. I have actually been trying to research this query for quite a while now, however have come up empty; which is why I have decided to share my dilemma with all of you.

I served in the British Army for 13 years, after which time I was medically discharged after sustaining a serious spinal injury whilst on operational tour. Unfortunately I had a further 11 years remaining on my service and so leaving the Army at this stage of the game came as a huge shock. My injury was very serious and resulted in major disabilities, however the most difficult part of the injury has been the constant pain and managing it; on top of the other problems that occur from long term chronic pain.

Being incredibly restricted, my employment options have been drastically reduced, in fact, I am ashamed to say that I am in receipt of disability benefits. I have been out of the Army for the past 5 years and in this time I have been doing the only thing I can; writing.

However, this is my dilemma. Over the 5 years, I have written many drafts of a story that has changed goodness knows how many times, but I have finally produced a draft I am happy with. I am incredibly reluctant to call myself a writer, the way I see it, I am not a writer until I have been published in one way or another. My plan now is to find an agent, who will hopefully like what I have written and have my story published, my first novel. My problem is how would this all affect my benefits?

As much as I want nothing more than to be free of the benefit system, I have a wife and three children. Although my wife works full time, we still rely on the money I get from disability. I know that when a writer gets his or her first book published, there really isn't a lot of money involved. Even if I was intelligent enough to produce two novels every year, I simply couldn't, on account of my disability, pain and medication in take. However, at the same time to get a book published, for me personally is all I want. I want to accomplish something my children can be proud of me for. Unfortunately I know how the government work and as soon as I declared that I had written a book, despite the fact it has taken almost five years, they would deem me fit to work and withdraw any help we currently receive.

I apologise for the length of this post, however I appreciate your time and understanding and hope that one of you will be able to shed some light on this matter. Once again thank you in advance for any help you can shed on this matter and I look forward to getting to know you all in the future.


  • Disablement doesn't stop a person writing - blind people write, paraplegics write - so that shouldn't be a problem.
    Finding an agent? Well, you could be lucky and find one on your first shot, but most writers don't, so I'd worry about affecting your benefits when that bridge needs crossing.
    And if you write, you're a writer, as are many other unpublished writers.

    And welcome to the forum.
  • LizLiz
    edited April 2015
    I wouldn't panic yet - it's an incredibly rare writer that get their first novel published. I think the average is third, of those that are successful. You learn with each novel. But you have been writing for 5 years so you never know!

    As an example, though, I am a poet. To be a good poet takes on average about 15 years of writing - after 10 years of getting published in anthologies, you are deemed good enough to have your own single voice book.

    I don't think you need to worry about being deemed fit to work - sitting in a chair putting pen to paper in your own home is hardly the same as going out to work every day and being active and able.

    Don't worry. Everything will be fine.

    Welcome to the forum, you have landed in a very supportive and lovely lot of people and we look forward to talking to you.
  • Oooh... and have you tried Transcendental Meditation? it helps service men and women after conflict like nothing else, and I think it's free for you.

  • There is nothing to be ashamed of receiving disability benefits, ih30.

    You have suffered that disability as a result of your work, and there is nothing shaming about now needing financial support. It is there for a reason.
  • You could try contacting the citizen's advice bureau.
    I would think there are two aspects to this - what part of the benefit is related to inability to work (and what that actually means) and what part is related to care needs because of the disability. Also, whether the benefit is means tested (which would only be an issue writer-wise if you made a great success of your book!). It's hard for anyone to comment without knowing more on your personal circumstances and the specific benefits you receive, which will be different for everyone.
    The CAB would be able to advise you of this.

    And what Carol said too!!

    Good luck!
  • Welcome to the forum.
  • Welcome, hope we can support and encourage your writing.

    Even if you don't find an agent there's no reason why you can't self-publish a book to a very high standard. We all have different levels of experience here and would be very pleased to offer advice.
  • edited April 2015
    A very warm welcome to you, iharrison.
    From what I understand in your post, your concern is that the moment you start earning any money from writing (however small the sum) it will impact on your benefits.
    I don't know much about the UK system, but I would guess that you are right to be concerned/cautious. I don't think there are any members of this forum who work in 'benefits' and Heather's suggestion that you talk to Citizens Advice seems like a sensible first step to make.

    In the meantime, you'll find that the people on this forum will give you lots of writing related support!

    p.s. I echo what Carol said about you having nothing to be ashamed about!!
  • Hi.

    Getting advice now on how your benefits might be affected sounds sensible but I imagine it will depend greatly on how much money you make and you won't know that for quite some time. Until you do make money I can't see it being a problem as for things such as tax, writing is considered a hobby until there's any profit involved.

    Good luck with your publication efforts.

  • Hello, ih, and welcome to the forum.

    Yes, it's a tricky one, isn't it?

    If you did get traditionally published (which is very difficult), it's not as if there is a typical acknowledged salary which you can expect. If there was, then you could check whether this would be compatible with the benefits you currently claim.

    All you can do is (try to) go down that route and, at the point where a contract is offered and financial issues are discussed, you should get advice and make a decision about where to go from there. I can't believe, however, that any disability allowance would be taken off you; writing one book is not actually a job and does not guarantee long-term income. Neither does writing a book cancel out the fact that you are disabled.

    As has been mentioned, you could self-publish. I'm sure you know that this is unlikely to make you a fortune and, therefore, is highly unlikely to affect your benefits unless you become the next bestseller (which, I hate to say, is also unlikely in this competitive world of writing).

    If this is your dream, you really must pursue all avenues. There's always a way to get a book out there. Good luck!
  • My son was on disability living allowance (or something similar) when he left Uni. Every time he wanted to ask what he was entitled to, or question something, he rang up. He did not have to give his name, and he was not asked for his name. He asked all sorts of questions and they could not have been more helpful. They gave him advice and told him what he could claim (more than he wanted to).

    So don't be scared of going to the horse's mouth.
  • Wow, thank you all so very much for your warm welcomes and help with my dilemma. I think perhaps the best thing to do would be talk to Citizens advice and the Benefits agency. I fully understand that I am jumping the gun massively, I may never ever get published. I am incredibly aware of just how difficult it is to get published. I just wanted to be mentally organised more than anything really, knee what course of action to take should I ever receive that illusive acceptance letter lol.

    I would especially like to thank you all for going the extra mile in making me feel welcome. Liz I had not heard of Transcedental Meditation, I will definitely talk to my pain management consultant and see what they say or failing that I'll research it myself. Unfortunately dealing with disability, chronic pain and unwanted images has meant I've experienced my fair share of medical treatments, but not this option. Thank you so much Liz.

    You have all been wonderful, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your kind words of encouragement and help.

    King Regards


  • You have all been wonderful, I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your kind words of encouragement and help.

    That's the main reason I'm still active on talkback, nine years later. :)
  • Harry, do feel free to comment on other conversations, too. It's always nice to have lots of points of view.
  • Welcome Harry, I wish you all the success in getting your book published.
  • Hello, Harry, and welcome from me too.
    I can't add anything about the benefits/income debate, but I'll say this: your wife and kids are proud of you for being who you are. You were injured in the line of duty; your career has been cut short by something that happened in the pursuit of that career. You think of what should have been, and of the active years you had left; your children have no concept of that, only of who you are now. They love you because you're Dad, not just because you're Soldier Dad. Yes, they'll be proud of Writer Dad too, but not because they think any less of you now, and need something tangible to point at. They don't have to qualify their love for you by titles.
    The only thing shameful about disability benefits is that the army should look after its own when they are broken in its service. You have nothing to apologise for - nor to be ashamed of; you have far more to be proud of than many.
    Writers write: ergo, you're a writer. Do what you need to do; write what's inside you waiting to come into the light.
    Come and join in the chat, wherever you feel so inclined. We like to meet new writers of all levels here, but I can't guarantee we'll always talk shop. (I can pretty much guarantee that we won't !)
  • Welcome, iharrison30.
  • This thread came up on a yahoo! search - for unfathomable reasons. I wonder if he succeeded in getting his book published.
  • So pleased to meet you Harry - welcome.  Glad to see you've settled in.

  • Betsie, you didn't read my post (above yours) - Harry started this thread back in 2015 and never returned.
  • He hasn't been back since June 2015.

  • So often people log into the forum we welcome them then their never to be seen in the threads again. Such a shame as there is so much to gain.
  • Oh dear me, I'm afraid I'm one of those. Logged in May 2017, got a lovely welcome, them disappeared. :/But I have been busy and must have written over 200 poems/rhymes since them. Now I'm newly subscribed to the mag and determined to put myself around a bit. I'll be 88 later this year so I'm running out of time!
  • Welcome back, Codger!
  • Hey, Codger. I missed you first time around - so a big hello and welcome. Hope you stick around. :)
  • Glad to see you again, Codger. 
  • Glad you're back Codger.
  • Thank you all. I'd better start my own thread. 🙂
  • hey iharrson30 - well done you - for completing a manuscript - thousands of people never get to that stage. But, before you go searching for agents try and get someone to critique and proof read your books (baggy) on this site is excellent and very reasonable) if you send something to an agent that isn't 100% perfect they are likely to reject it so it's worth the time and effort. If you use a friend or family member remember they will probably not tell it like it is.

    Regarding earning enough to affect your benefits - unless you're really lucky with your first attempt worrying about that is a long way off - hardly any writers make any money - only 1% of writers earn enough to make a living out of it so your chances are slim - but that isn't the reason most of us write - if it was we'd all be depressed 100% of the time. I shifted 10000 copies of my first novel over the summer and it barely cleared me enough (after tax) to pay for a new boiler!

    So just get on with the writing and worry about the benefit issues later if you're lucky enough to make serious money then fab!!

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