Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics informed me that,
“U.S. Writers 2020 Median Pay is $67,120 per year.
Typical Entry-Level Education: Bachelor’s degree.
On-the-job Training: Long-term on-the-job training.”
I was curious about this because it is (as I write this) October 1. It is the day my twice-yearly royalties are paid out by publishers. The other date is April 1. Which is to say I get my book royalty income twice a year. Let it also be said I have no idea how much money will be coming in. Ever.
This payout is a complex accounting process, covering the prior period of six months, that is, from January to June 2021. You will note that was the height of the Covid pandemic. And of course, sales, no more than people, are not immune to pandemics.
In the month (or so) leading up to this date my wife and I engage in endless speculation about my likely income. Which is to say, what will we live on? She is great at statistics and past data extrapolation. I am great at pessimism. But all in all, it is truly speculation.
No wonder that this is also about this time of the year that I always recall what Samuel Johnson said: “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.”
Let me hasten to say I do not consider myself a blockhead. And I can attest to the fact that it took many years of writing before I earned any income from my writing. I was also being constantly told I would not earn any money.
So, while I cannot argue with the Bureau of Labor’s statistics, I can argue with “Work Experience in a Related Occupation: None.” That’s to say the “work experience in a related occupation” is, in fact, anything that will keep you going. And writing. Which I guess explains, “Long-term on-the-job training.”
I’ve come to believe that professional writing is not just an occupation, it is a way of life. It may not fill your pockets, but it will fill your mind. Your time. And your worries.
It also does something which appears contradictory. When, as a young man, I first started to write, I was full of confidence. Of course, then, I truly believed I was more than capable of good writing. Now much, much older, I have far less confidence. Even as I have recently started a new book I am plagued by how—so far—poorly it reads.
Yes, I love that I earn my living by writing. But writing is the living, whereas the income only provides the time to practice it.