Most writers can’t just write. The last number I saw was 43…that’s the estimate of how many writers can make a living from just writing fiction. ‘A living’ is a semi-detached house with three bedrooms, two cars and school fees for two children, plus one foreign holiday a year. ‘Ha!’ we say, and ‘ha!’ again.
Most of the writers I know do something else, too. Lots of us do more than one something else. We might teach in universities or colleges, go into schools for day or week-long workshops, go into residencies, write journalism, give public workshops, review or do public speaking. Many of us do combinations of several of these.
It gets complicated. In any one week, I might be doing two or three of those things AND writing. And then, I have to remember to claim the money I’m owed for the first one while doing the other one or two. Sometimes, I forget. For weeks, even months.
Then there’s the nature of fiction publishing in general. You get a whack of money (and smaller and smaller whacks, these days) up front and then nothing for quite a long time.
It makes for a very confusing and irregular income. You often ‘lose’ money as an author, after expenses, for years. That means you rather forget about your tax bill when a good year comes along and then, boom! That’s how I ended up driving such a horrible little car. I had to sell mine to pay my tax bill…
If you are a very organised person with good budgeting skills, you can do quite well from your fiction. You can do three or four events a week, booked well in advance, do some teaching where you carefully monitor hours given and hours paid, save for your taxes and invest your advances and end up coining the stuff.
But if you are a very organised kind of person, you probably won’ t be a writer.
So you’ll be like me, at the end of a carefully budgeted summer, having forgotten to claim the income I was going to buy food with in September.
Beans on toast, anyone?