Posed with the question of whether he’s a full-time author, successful children’s novelist Kurtis Scaletta writes on his website, “I am not, and know few authors who make a living at what they do, though some bolster their writing income by doing a lot of school visits, going to writer’s conferences, etc.” Writing as a full-time profession and doing so to earn a full-time living is difficult, as Kurtis tells us.
Writing for me is as much a hobby as it is a career. Sure I’ve made a little money doing it, but financial success is hardly the number one motivator. Rather it’s my love for creating characters, developing plots and telling engaging stories that young people enjoy that drive me to continue to return to my computer. And if Kurtis Scaletta speaks for other writers like him, most of us share this opinion.
Non-writers who are readers and who know things about the publishing business might assume the desires of all writers lay in having one’s book featured at Barnes and Noble, appearing on Oprah’s list, winning awards, or in making millions. It’s likely the accumulation of such accolades or distinctions exist somewhere on the wish lists of most authors’ life accomplishments, but it’s also true that most of us are happy with much less lofty outcomes. We’re happy to just finish writing a book we’re proud of. We’re happy to sit at a computer each day and craft characters and worlds from our imaginations. And we’re happy to know that a few thousand, or perhaps even just a few hundred, readers enjoyed our books. I feel a particular lift of joy when I visit a library on vacation and see one of my books on the shelf. It’s feelings like these that motivate me.
Would I love to be a full-time writer and have the good fortune to rely solely on my writing income as a way to support myself and my family? For sure! Don’t we all dream of a day when we crank Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It” on the car stereo as we burn rubber and drive irresponsibly fast out of the parking lot of our 9 to 5 job? Of course! But the point is it’s impossible to know if this day will ever come. And the joy of one day experiencing this day is not the main reason I write.
As a teacher I have summers off. I could be pursuing a hobby like golf or tennis or fishing. Or I could be earning additional income by painting houses or coaching or teaching. I choose to write. I choose to do it not just for the end goal of realizing great success one day. I choose to do it because I love it, just like the casual golfer who has only the most elusive of aspirations to one day make the senior tour or to one day win a local amateur tournament. He or she doesn’t golf for the promise of future success. It’s the love and the passion for the sport that drives that golfer to don the spikes and hit the links at 8:00 on a Saturday morning.
If I wasn’t writing in my free time, I’m not honestly sure what else I’d be doing. At this point in my life writing is as much who I am as it is what I do. And while I may never make a fortune as a writer, or sit on Oprah’s couch, I’ll likely never stop doing it.