On the expense of writing
(This was originally a response on the relative cost of writing, on a forum. I reproduced it here for further discussion.)
Writing is my career and, so, like most careers, I spend about full-time plus thinking about it.
That sounds dramatic, I know, but it’s quite true. I contemplate plot and characters, motivations and dialogue, even when I’m not actively writing. I discuss issues with partners and peers. Hey, I’m talking about it right now!
Actual writing takes up less of my time. I’m a weirdly lucky person that I can pound out thousands of words a day without spending too many hours. My house is really mostly clean, I make most meals from scratch, my children are listened to and interacted with, and I still can manage two to three full-length novels a year, as well as multiple short stories, including editing.
In a strictly monetary sense, it’s both cheap and expensive for me to write. I have not had a proper outside the house job in nearly 4 years (I was a scriptwriter and ad traffic manager before I lost my job). However, I have two children and a husband who works full-time, and the relative discount of me being home for the kids, for chauffeuring to school and activities, staying with them during breaks, and doing 90% of the housework and cooking, makes up for what I might manage to bring in should someone actually want to hire me.
There are costs to put out for writing outside that, of course. You need something to write with (usually a computer), and, for ease, internet access. There are fees for some contests (a discussion of payment for contests/reading fees is a different subject for a different time), or, in the case of self-publishing, start-up fees (ISBN number purchase, Amazon accounts, etc).
I’ve spent very little money on writing, however. I am a freelance editor, and have little issue editing my own work to a degree that it can be submitted to publishers, agents and editors. I associate with other writers in a way that provides me perspective and drive.
The largest cost is in sanity, and patience, and ego. Writing, I’d argue, is the easier part of the whole process. Editing is more difficult, but the real bruising comes from how long things TAKE and how often they don’t HAPPEN. With my first novel (which is now off the table for the time-being), I’ve received 50+ rejections, ranging from personal and thoughtful, to form, to rejection by lack of response entirely. I’ve placed pieces in anthologies only to have them later rejected by publishers. Last week, I received a rejection for a short story… that the editor had already rejected the month before.
Putting yourself out there is where the real risk is. No, rejection isn’t fun. It SUCKS to write and edit and slave over queries and cover letters only to wait six months for a “Dear Author” letter to show up on your shittiest day. Developing a thick skin is the recommended tactic, but it’s not that easy. I cried yesterday when I got rejected. I’m old hat at this, and I still tantrum like a 3 year old.
I’ve had moderate success: I write humor articles for Broad, an online magazine, and have been included in the erotica anthology, Anything She Wants, that was released earlier this month. I recently came in third in the BetterSex Erotica Contest: Female Fantasies. I have several editors who have complimented my writing, and I enjoy working with. Even a few of my rejections have been positive!
So, after all that long-windedness, I’d say the real cost is whatever you make of it. I think it would cost me more to give it up than to face down the risks any day.