YES, Writing is My Only Job
So meeting someone new goes like this:
“What’s your name?”
“Kern Carter.” (Yes I say first and last name. Don’t judge).
“And what do you do for a living, Kern Carter?”
“I’m a writer.”
“That must be so cool. But how do you actually support yourself?”
Nine times out of ten, some variation of this conversation is what happens when I tell someone I’m a writer. And it doesn’t even have to be someone new. If I’m catching up with an old friend or colleague, they ask me the same question.
After I chuckle to myself, and sometimes out loud, I let them know that writing is how I make all of my money. Every dollar. No bartending on the side, no pyramid scheme, no selling drugs, just writing.
I wish I could take a snap of the look on their faces when I say this. It’s like I’ve found a cure for stage four lung cancer. That’s probably a bad comparison, but you get my point. They really can’t believe I’m telling the truth. And I’m sure some of them leave believing that I’m not telling the truth.
And that’s OK. I get it. Really, I do. Some people don’t believe it’s possible to make a living off of writing, or any other artistic venture for that reason. Most writers or artists don’t believe it themselves. But I’m living proof that it’s more than possible to survive in this industry, you can actually thrive.
Yeah, I said thrive. Meaning excel, do more than sit in your parents basement dreaming of one day being “successful.” You can actually carve out a pretty good life for yourself if you know how to navigate your talents.
Actually, leverage would probably be a better word than navigate. Once you realize that you have a talent that is valued, and you’ve shown yourself capable of producing content at a high level, then the opportunities are out there.
I’ve been able to live the way I want to live. I work from home, rent a two bedroom apartment on Queen Street (everyone in Toronto should have an idea of what that costs), take care of my now teenage daughter, and still go out to brunch, or the theatre, or art shows, concerts, festivals, whatever.
Life is good. All from typing words on a screen and putting it out into the world. And NO this isn’t a “how to” article so I hope you don’t expect any tips. Although, I’m sure it would be beneficial to help guide some young writers on the right path.
But to be honest, there are so many paths to take that it would be hard to decipher just what the right path looks like. I’ve taken to the freelance path, primarily. But there are so many other ways to go about earning a living from writing.
Check out my St. Bonaventure friend Sabrina Maddeaux. She’s carved out an enviable writing career and she’s younger than I am. It’s actually hard to keep up with all that she’s accomplished.
Or look at Yahaya Baruwa who has taken a completely different path but has also been successful as a writer. Or my colleague from south of the boarder Jane Friedman. Talk about being versatile. She’s literally a clinic on how to thrive as a writer.
Writers Are More than Novelists
Then there are novelists. This is where I think many people confuse the whole idea of being a writer. Yes I’ve written a book, but that only makes up part of my income as a writer. I’ve taken part in many more creative projects for which I’ve been paid and I continue to look for those opportunities.
I compare being a writer to being a musician. Musicians today don’t depend on sales from their albums to pay their bills. They leverage that music to develop an audience, and use their brand (real or created) to branch out into other creative ventures that pay much more than they would ever earn from selling music.
And I think writers today need to take on that mentality. We have to look at ourselves as brands. Once we position ourselves from that perspective, we can attract opportunities that fit with our branding and start making some real dollars.
That sounds a bit businessy, but to me that sounds exciting. That writers today can be brand ambassadors, Influencers, educators, public speakers, and even achieve a certain level of online celebrity is motivating.
And why not. We should be able to do much more than just ‘support ourselves” with our talents. We should flourish in this new digital environment. And we can. And I do, a little bit. Not nearly to the level that I expect to attain once I continue pushing. But I’m doing pretty damn good for myself at the moment.
So next time you ask me out to coffee, or message me on social media, the answer is YES! Writing is my only job. And yes it’s how I pay the rent (Millennials don’t buy houses in Toronto). And YES it’s definitely my passion.
Living the dream…
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