Freelance Fridays: Would You Like to be Paid to Write?


Ahhh, the author life! Photo via Visual Hunt


Merritt Tierce was about to publish her first novel. It had garnered fawning advance reviews.

She quit her day job. It was time to let her husband play breadwinner while she enjoyed the success of being a professional writer.

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Writer’s block promptly set in. She had no second project in the works.

She sold fewe

r copies of her first book than she had hoped. Royalty checks would not be coming.


In a piece for Marie Claire, she says:

For over a year after Love Me Back came out I woke up every day with this loop in my head: I should write. But I need money. If I write something I can sell it and I’ll have money. But I need money now. If I had money now, I could calm down and write something. I don’t have money now, so I’m probably not going to be able to calm down and write something. To have money now, I need a job. I should get a job.

She resorted to carrying mail, a role she found helpfully financially but not energetically. After a full day on the job, she was usually too drained to sit down and write something new. Could she call herself a writer when she wasn’t making money in a full-time career?

No matter how you do it, no one is paying you to write. They may pay you for something you wrote, or promise to pay you for something you have promised to write. They may pay your room and board for a mont

h or two at a residency. They may pay you to teach, or to edit something someone else has written. They may pay you to come to a university and talk to people about writing. None of this is the same as being paid to write.

I would like to be paid to write.

Most of us would.

Instead, many of us are doing the “boring” writing that pays the bills. We’re writing proposals. We’re writing advertising copy. We’re pitching blogs and magazines in hopes of a quick cash turnaround. We’re writing form letters and blurbs for brochures. It’s typically not “fun” or “creative.” It’s a job, one that often distracts us from the fun writing we’d rather be doing.

We write, and write often, for function and necessity rather than art. We write to support our families, to keep the hounds at bay. We write because we’ve prioritized pragmatism over idealism. For many of us, that’s all we will ever do. That is our career destiny. Some among us may even prefer it that way. We have acquired a marketable skill, and we’re taking it where the market demands.

We’re not sellouts. We’re survivalists.

I would like to be paid to write, too. Nothing sounds more enchanting, most days, than living out the fantasy of an author’s world filled with launch parties and book groups and invitations to film premieres based on adaptations of my work. Even if I never produce a fiction piece good enough to launch my author career into the stratosphere, however, I am still a writer.

You are still a writer.

We are writers because we write.


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