As writers, many of us (including me) have to make a living. Although I’m lucky enough to make my living writing, it’s not how some may think. I wish I made a living from my novels and poems, but I actually survive by my technical writing. Nonfiction pays my bills.
I typically lament having to “work” for a living, for clients, customers, businesses, whatever you’d like to call them, even though I often enjoy the work. I think it’s because it feels as though I have to, as though I’m under deadline. I wonder sometimes how I might view my novels and poems if I had to do it rather than I want to do it. It hardly matters. It’s not the case at the moment.
We all have our troubles. I have a friend that I meet with once or twice a month for what we call our “literary boost” where we talk about craft, whether in poetry, short story, or fiction. We discuss a published piece and whether it works or doesn’t work, whether we understand why the author did what he or she did, or if it reads as though there were no plan whatsoever.
During one of our literary boosts, we took a break to chat about our lives and I started my complaints about writing my technical materials. He told me something really interesting. “Hold on,” he said, “maybe it has more to do with how you’re looking at this.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, if you view yourself as a publisher, what you’re really doing is using your nonfiction income to pay for your fiction and poetry. That’s what a lot of publishers do. In order for them to publish a book of poems that might have a few thousand readers, they publish a book of nonfiction, let’s say on business practices, by the zillions. The extra funds help to pay for the poetry. The same goes for the more literary novels. Sure the prizewinners help to build the clout of the publisher, but those books don’t often pay the mortgage.”
He had a point. I began to look at things differently. After all, I do enjoy writing technical articles, and they did allow me to continue to write my novels. And there’s another benefit that I seldom look at or talk about: my technology background and education is what allows me to write science fiction, which I love to do. My two writing gigs happen to feed each other in several different ways, then. And I am happy that I have both.
No matter what job you have, though, it’s the same story. Your paying gig is what allows you to write your novels, make your music, knit, rebuild cars. I still think of my technical articles as work, but I’m feeling much better about doing it now that it’s in perspective.
Terry Persun is an award winning author and a #1 Amazon bestseller. He is also a Pushcart nominee. His mainstream novel, “Wolf’s Rite”, was a Star of Washington award winner, a POW! Award winner, and a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalist. His science fiction novel, “Cathedral of Dreams”, was also a ForeWord magazine Book of the Year finalists. And his historical novel, “Sweet Song”, won a Silver IPPY Award for best regional fiction. His latest novel, “Doublesight”, is book one of his new fantasy series. His latest poetry collection is “And Now This”. Terry writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction/fantasy.