Writing and The Working Poor

Indulgence in an artistic life is much easier when money is not an object.  Most writers never make a living off their work.  Do the math on the number of hours spent writing a novel (including research, revision, etc.) and divide an average novelist's advance; it's sad.  The advice:  "Don't quit your day job" is no longer disrespectful, it is helpful.

Yet, those who feel compelled to create will do so no matter what.  And yes, everyone has obstacles that prevent them from writing as much as they'd like.  Those who have more income or less worry about income, however, are at a real advantage.

Here are some reasons:

1.  A person without financial worry doesn't fear homelessness, medical bills, or where his/her next meal comes from.  It takes away some stresses another writer may have constantly which can interfere with productivity.

2.  The likelihood of a well-off person working two full-time jobs is low, giving them more time to write or belong to a critique group.  And sending those submissions out is easier, too!

3.  Conferences and workshops are expensive and time-consuming.

4.  Contest entry fees are not prohibitive for someone who has enough money.  (I know this isn't a huge issue with novelists but it is with writers of short stories and poetry because competitions are one of the ONLY ways to get recognition.  Combine that with almost all presses publishing short works charging reading fees and even some literary magazines.)

5.  MFAs are impossible to obtain without a good amount of money or a great amount of debt.  (Again, this is more for poets and short story writers.  I've seen many more novelists/nonfiction writers without an MFA than, say, poets.)

6.  Self-publishing is mostly based on funds.

So, does this mean a person with more discretionary income or more free time should feel guilty?  No.  But it doesn't kill said person to acknowledge his/her advantage over other writers.  Other writers who still manage to complete work, anyway.

Who are your favorite working-class writers?  Do you disagree about anything I've stated?


  1. Good points all. I never wrote that much when I worked full time, but I probably could have if I'd used my time better. But you are certain correct about what you've said here.

    I don't know that I can think of any writers that I've actually read that would be in that classification of "working-class writers". I really don't pay all that much attention to writers' backgrounds and when I have I sometimes question the veracity of their life stories.

    Maybe Jack Kerouac? I've only read On The Road as well as articles about Jack the author. Sounds like he struggled though it didn't seem like he worked all that much.

    But, yeah, if you don't have any means of support I think it would be tough trying to make it as a writer unless you really lucked out somehow.

    Tossing It Out

    1. I haven't read Keroac. I can't bring myself to, though I've been told I should.
      I don't read the biographies of fiction writers. Their stories are what I'm after, but I do read those of nonfiction writers (to see what sort of authority they possess on their chosen topic) and poets.

      I read poets' biographies to see if any of them aren't editors, teachers or have college degrees. Most poets in prestigious literary magazines have/are at least one of those. It is almost an unstated requirement. I look hoping to find someone who is like me.

    2. Oh, another thing you hit on is luck. There are successful people in every field (Oprah immediately comes to mind as someone extraordinarily opposed to luck) who will tell you there's no such thing-- they just worked hard. Hard work and persistence are vital to "making it" but discounting luck is a flat-out sham.
      Your hard work may have helped you finish the book, that particular agent being at your friend's party? Luck.

    3. Yes, the old right place at the right time situation.

      Tossing It Out