Back in 1981, The inimitable Lawrence Block wrote an article for Writer’s Digest called “Getting By on a Writer’s Income.” The article acts as a sort of how to, providing eleven general points that you’re going to have to come to terms with if this is the life you choose.
I left my day job this past year. When writers hear that, they immediately cheer. “Yay! You’re living the writer’s life!” When non-writers hear the same news, they immediately ask, “Can you……um…you’re not going to…um…you can survive?”
Yes, I’m surviving, but there have been a couple of changes:
Gone is the disposable income, which means I’ve had to make a couple of adjustments. In pre-writing FT life, a high stressful day might have begotten a twelve dollar lunch. Now, lunch comes from the refrigerator. But since I don’t have high stress days anymore, it’s not that much of a sacrifice.
Pre-writing FT: $35 battery-operated mascara. Post: sale mascara from Rite-Aid.
Pre: New outfits from Neiman Marcus. Post: It’s fun to rediscover the clothes in my own closet!
Pre: just pay for valet parking. It’s more convenient. Post: leave early to allow for time to circle the block and find free parking.
In some ways, these months have been the absolute greatest months of my life. Gone is the stress of rushing, rushing, rushing everywhere. Gone is the frustration of wanting to do one thing but being obligated to do another. Gone is the feeling that I’m dancing as fast as I can. Now I say yes to opportunities because I want to—and I can.
I’m not going to lie. Living the writer’s life requires sacrifice. And it requires self-motivation. It can include countless hours playing computer card games, or it can include the random weekday you take off to conduct a little real life research. It can give you the time to get done in a few days what it would normally have taken you weeks or months to accomplish. You’ll learn new things about yourself, and that’s a priceless lesson at any age.
And you know what I learned? I probably didn’t need battery-operated mascara in the first place.