“How Do I Become A Professional Writer?” The Answer May Surprise You!
So as someone with a few published novels under his belt, I get asked all the time: “How do I become a professional writer?” As in, “How do I make writing my full-time job?”
The most surprising component to that is this:
Make sure Obamacare doesn’t get repealed.
Seriously. Being a full-time writer, at least on the lower levels, is being eternally on the hustle: working your Patreon, mixing up self-publishing and traditional publishing to see which earns you more income, waiting those dry months between paychecks because publishers pay you when they damn well feel like it and acceptances can take forever.
It’s a tenuous existence at best for most writers. For every Neil Gaiman millionaire, there’s a hundred “pro” writers scraping by on a $400-a-month Patreon and sporadic book advances. The life of a creator is hard.
And if they go to the hospital even once without insurance, well, that’s usually enough to tip them out of this writing career business. They literally can’t afford to write, because even trivial health issues cost them thousands of bucks they don’t have.
So they get day jobs for the steadier income. Or they get day jobs because the insurance they can afford on their individual writer’s income is way too expensive.
Obamacare, for all its manifest flaws, let artists flourish. America’s supposed to value the small businessman, and allowing an artist to go out and start their own jewelry company, or their publishing company, or their recording business is the height of the values Republicans usually claim to espouse.
Every artist who goes full time is an entrepreneur taking a risk.
And without affordable health care, without the BS of being barred for preexisting conditions, or being asked to pay out of some nebulous savings account that won’t cover your first major surgery?
Your chances of being a full-time author are only as good as your health. And your health is always a crapshoot. You can work out all day and still get hit by a car.
Maybe you can make it if you’ve got a partner who’s willing to cover for you. Yet even that risks putting you into an abusive relationship where some jerk of a lover can mistreat you because they know you need the health care. (That’s not theoretical, by the way. I’ve seen that happen. Multiple times.)
So if you want to be a full-time writer, the usual caveats apply: write a lot, because you need to learn your craft and you can’t do that by writing once a month when you’re inspired. Get good feedback from honest people who like the kind of stuff you’re trying to write. Submit everywhere, and dance that tricky flamenco of “changing your work in response to good criticism” without “selling out the things you love about yourself.”
But honestly? If your dream is to be a full-time writer, call your Congressmen and tell them you want a health care program that protects all preexisting conditions, that isn’t a savings account, that doesn’t have lifetime payout limits. I’ve written up how to do that here, and it takes about ten minutes out of your day.
And if you don’t want to be a full-time writer, but you enjoy all that great writing and indie music and Etsy art, contemplate also making the call. A lot more artists than you’d think depend on Obamacare to keep producing that work you love, and if that gets repealed they’re going to have to quit this to get a day job.
Obamacare protects a lot more small business people than anyone wants to admit. We just don’t talk about that because we don’t think of artists as business people – but they are. They’re hustlers. They’re working to survive.
Help ’em out by making a call or two.