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Why don't writers write more?

I used to teach an MA in Creative Writing and I was mildly surprised each year to discover that virtually none of my students did any writing outside of their main area of interest (novel, short story, poetry).

My argument remains: if you're a writer – or have ambitions in that direction – why not try to get more professional writing work?

You may not (initially) be able to live off the proceeds, but magazine work, editing, copywriting, blogging etc can earn you money. More importantly, it forces your writing to become more professional. You have to be quick, learn rapidly and please diverse audiences in different styles.

More importantly, once you've found your niche, you might actually have more time to write the things you really love. Which makes more sense: working for a few hours as a waitress or admin or whatever . . . or bashing out an article (say) in a third of the time for the same, or even more, money?*

What I'm saying is: if you have a skill, use it. Develop it. Don't keep it as a hobby. I write every day because it's how I pay my bills. Very little of that is novel writing, admittedly, but when the time come to work on the novel, I am am focused, efficient and fast because I spend all my time writing.

*A professional copywriter can earn upwards of £300 a day but may actually do only a couple of hours' work. A retainer can be even better. That's when a company pays you a set fee each month in case they have any writing to do. A company once paid me for three months without giving me any work at all. That allowed me to write a novel.


  • I suppose that the writing a lot of people enjoy doing isn't necessarily the type to earn them money - stories and poetry, for example. I imagine there's more opportunity out there for writers of articles.
  • edited September 2019
    Some writers are more adaptable than others. Others find their niche early on. 

    But I know that many younger writers are holding down jobs that are no longer 9-5, they have shifts, so add on the other demands of everyday life and writing life they probably only have the time to concentrate on one aim. 

  • I'd love to be a full time writer but I'm not so I have to do a day job and also have other commitments - young family etc so even doing what I do is a struggle. I suspect many others are in the same position and there have been other discussions on here around the feeling that it has become harder to earn a living from writing in recent times.

    I suppose if I'd signed on to do an MA my stance might be slightly different and I'd perhaps want to explore other ways of making a living from writing, rather than my main interest jut so all my eggs weren't in one basket.

  • I did an MA and tried all genres of children's writing from picture books up to YA taking in science fiction, factual etc. etc. I enjoyed picture books but my heart is where my concentration lies, and that is poetry. I'm really not interested in writing anything else and although it doesn't make me much money I am doing enough to keep me busy all the time. So for me it's a time thing. Wring articles would no doubt get me more money. And I could do it. But I don't.
  • I'm a short story writer but my first writing payment was for an in-flight magazine article in 2003. It was the local equivalent of £80.00 and didn't take much research because the subject was an interest of mine. It's a shame the editor didn't let me proof-read it before publication because they printed a temperature figure that was 200C lower than correct.
    Ah, well - maybe no-one read it anyway.  :)
  • stevef said:

    Ah, well - maybe no-one read it anyway.  :)
    We went to Canada for 6 weeks, while OH was editing a bear programme, and my children went to school there. I had to home educate my son but my daughter was assessed and put in a class in a Canadian school. in one lesson they were asked who the Canadian prime minister was. No-one knew, except my daughter who had read all about Canada in the in-flight magazine on the way over... thank goodness YOU didn't write the article! 

  • I used to write for in-flight magazines, Steve. They could be a little hit and miss, but in my experience, all article writing is at the mercy of the publication. :)
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