I make this statement, that careers in creative writing are not for wimps - because it's true.
(Now, there are huge rewards too - check out the Guarantee of Success page to inspire you.)
But it is tough. Careers in creative writing are difficult and challenging and will make huge demands of you. Luckily there are tools and resources to help you, such as books for writers, and novel writing software.
Not least of these demands is the writing process itself. It requires great courage.
In addition to the courage of the writing process itself, there's the whole challenge of having careers in creative writing.
The following article explains it so well. It is courtesy of 'Cheshire Cat’ from the Absolute Write forum. He or she wished to remain anonymous, but described him/herself as a writer of twenty years' experience.
Note that it’s written by an American, for an American audience, so the details of taxes wouldn’t apply to everybody. (For example, in Ireland where I’m based, writers do not have to pay any income tax on creative writing income under €40,000).
But much of what s/he says is relevant to every writer, and I share it with you here:
Writing is like any other job: it has its ups and downs. There are times when you love what you do and times when you hate it, times you tell yourself, if only silently, that you're a genius and other times you're convinced what you're writing is total crap. Times when the business side of writing does its level best to drown the joy of the creative end of writing.
The thing is, with most jobs, if one door gets slammed in your face, for whatever reason, you go down the street and knock on another door. Polish up your resume and start trolling for a new job. And if you've got a marketable skill, you're more than likely to find one.
Writing, like most other creative endeavors, doesn't really work that way. When you're starting out, sure, you knock on lots of doors (agents, publishers) just trying to get a foot in. But once that foot is in, you're judged -- often with terrifying finality -- on the performance of just one or two books. Not your ability to write that book or the next book, not on your writerly skills, honed and polished likely over years of hard work, but on the performance of that "product" in a market over which you have virtually no control whatsoever. If that first book does very well or even just acceptably well in a tough market, you'll probably get a second shot. Probably.
But the brutal truth is that, most times, you're only as good as your last book. Only worth what the capricious market says you're worth. And sometimes, as has happened to a couple of my friends, you get booted out not because your books have been doing badly or your writing skills and creativity are no more, but simply because newer writers are cheaper. The decent advances and better contract terms your agent has spent years painstakingly getting for you become a liability rather than an asset.
I know. It sucks. But, especially in some of the commercial genres such as romance, it's also a fact of life in publishing. Newer writers are cheaper. They'll take lower advances, don't argue so much (if at all) about unfair contract terms, and because there's a core audience out there waiting, a certain number of sales is as close to guaranteed as you can get in publishing. For that first and, maybe, second book, at least.
The whole locking yourself in a turret to suffer years for your art attitude seems to belong more to the literary fiction crowd, and I can't speak to that. As a working writer of commercial fiction I have an office in my home, and that home has a mortgage, and the utilities and grocery bills don't stop coming due; I've never had the luxury of taking years to finish a project. I feel lucky if I have a few months.
The advance stuff is unfortunately true. People hear "six-figure advance" and think it's a lot of money and isn't so-and-so a lucky SOB. But those of us in the business begin mentally subtracting. 15% off for the agent. (And some authors are paying 20%.) State taxes, for most of us. Federal taxes, including the double-whammy of self-employment taxes. All of which can easily hit 50% or even more. So you end up with, maybe $40-50k if you're lucky.
And out of that, you'll have to pay for your own health insurance and try to carve out some sort of savings and a retirement plan, because if you've been paying attention you know damned well that this is one of the more unstable of the creative professions and that selling one book or six books or sixty books doesn't mean you'll be able to make a living writing next year or the year after that. Or, maybe, ever again.
I once heard an interior designer say, as she "man-handled" a heavy piece of furniture into place, that it was no job for wimps. That it wasn't about pillows and curtains and frilly bits and bows; there's a hell of a lot of work involved.
Same with writing. It isn't a job for wimps. And as hard as it seems to get that first foot in the door, doing so doesn't solve all your problems, or put you into a La-La Land of fame and riches (usually).
It's a job.
It's the joy of my life, and I can't imagine doing anything else.
But it's a job.