John Scalzi on writing for a living

Contributed by
Feb 11, 2008

I write for a living now. It's my job.

That's a weird thing to write (and yet, in some fun meta-way, I got paid a wee bit for writing it). I used to be a research astronomer, a programmer, an educator. Now I write. I'm actually an author, I guess; my second book is in production and will be out in October.

But at the moment this blog and some other venues (and some stuff coming up I'll share soon enough) are, basically, my job. They're my source of income. Leaving a full-time salaried position was a tough decision, and lots of my friends and readers ask me if it was the right thing to do and all that. Writing full time is really different than I imagined it would be, and it's harder. A year ago, if I didn't feel like writing, well, I wouldn't. I don't have that luxury now. I simply make sure I always feel like writing. Happily, it's fun, so it hasn't been an issue yet!

John Scalzi is a science fiction writer, and I'll be up front and say I haven't read his works yet (I haven't read any science fiction in ages, a problem I plan on fixing)-- but he writes a blog, and Wil Wheaton talks about him all the time, so I started reading it. I like it!

He posted a longish entry about what it's like to write full time and aimed it as advice to the hopeless romantics who think writing is all wine and roses. And I have to say, he nailed it. He's precisely correct. I don't make as much as he does, but I can mentally replace his salary with mine, and the facts still line up. I too married a business-savvy person, for a long time I didn't quit my day job (I've had this website since 1998, and my first book came out in 2002, so I've had jobs while doing most of my writing), we try to pay off the credit cards every month. I am prepared to be broke, but that hasn't happened yet, and the trajectory I am following appears to preclude that (though we'll see what the economy does in the next few months... not to mention my book sales).

It's easy to romanticize this job, and some of it really is pretty cool. I don't have to put on pants! I mean, c'mon. That rawks.

But money is an issue, time is an issue, quality is an issue. Expansion is a major issue. I need to do more things, better things... and those I plan to do. I have ideas I'm working on, and I'll implement some of them very soon. You'll see (wink). But in the meantime, I hope everyone will keep reading (tell a friend!). And if you want to do this full time, well, be prepared. Read what Scalzi wrote, and take it to heart. He knows of which he speaks.

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