I feel that a glimpse into what the reality of writing (especially for fiction) is can be appropriately placed in this column, it does chart my literary journey anyway, contributing to what and how I really write.
When I was younger, I always thought it’ll be cool to write a novel and then have it put to screen.
Then, I started writing my first novel(la) when I was 13.
Close to a decade later, I’ve managed to publish a science fiction anthology together with seven other writers.
And I’m still broke.
My point here is that in reality, being a writer/ author of selling fiction does not necessarily equate to a stable living.
I quote Wena Poon during a discussion session with us May last year, “You either have to end up with a day job (like she does) or spend the rest of your life living off grants.”
Putting aside that grants generally help, firstly, you need to qualify for these grants, which means portfolio, forms and stuff on top of finding the right grant for you. Secondly, grants have a limit and with so many people possibly applying for the same grant as you are, it means that resources are still limited. Hence, living off grants through your career may not exactly help in a long run.
However, I realised while going through my writing journey that creative writing definitely brings out that joy parallel to the expression, “I’ve never worked a day in my life” but while happy and magical as it seems, it seems a tad too idealistic. Too many times have I been asked about how much I earn in royalties or how do I earn as a fiction writer or the smug faces telling me, “I told you so!”
I’m not telling anyone to give up their craft, no one should ever do that. But I’m just saying that in an industry where the supply outstrips the demand, being reasonably practical may make your journey more enjoyable and cushions the shocking fall when you realise that publisher rejects have really good stuff to show.
So perhaps a paradigm shift can help budding writers starting out. Write because you love it, not because you think it’s going to be a J.K.Rowling route. Heck, even she started out stumbling over and over again.
Doesn’t matter if you start out writing for free (most of us do) or start out with something like the National Novel Writing Month just to get a manuscript out in your computer and get to know some like-minded people, if fiction writing is your craft, no one will take that away from you.
Just know that while it is your craft, ensure that you take care of yourself and the people around you as well. Be practical. (But not overly practical because that’ll kill the creativity)
If there is a day where I can just do nothing but write fiction day and night and royalties and cheques will keep rolling in for me to survive on, hey, I’m a happy person. But for know, I just take that following line as something to work with.
I write because I love it. I write because I want to express myself. I write to live interesting lives through my writing.
P/S – Overly idealistic though it may seem, a print-to-screen won’t do me any harm =P.