Saturday, September 09, 2006

You Can't Make a Living as a Writer

"You can't make a living as a writer," says Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in this month's National Geographic, explaining why he continues to practice dentistry when his book The Yacoubian Building has topped Arab best seller lists for the last two years.

The sad fact is that, like members of other creative professions, most writers have to make a living through something other than their art. The up side is that our day jobs provide fodder for our imaginations, as well as the grounding in reality that any good book needs to be believable.

I've learned something from every job I've held, and I have held a lot of them. I started working as a store clerk when I was 16 years old, then went on to a broad spectrum of positions -- everything from waitress to movie extra, dissertation editor to door-to-door seller of encyclopedias, inventory taker to cotton-candy maker. Along the way, I co-authored two non-fiction books and wrote case summaries for a legal periodical. For the past thirty years I've practiced law in a variety of settings -- as a solo practitioner, in a small firm, for a legal services program, as a temp, and, most recently, in a corporate law department. I've represented clients in thousands of hearings before trial courts and administrative agencies and written gazillions of legal documents.

In the months ahead, I will be blogging periodically about these jobs. Meanwhile, keep reading every day to keep up with the fascinating professions practiced by my fellow bloggers.

- Gina


Rebecca Drake said...

Cotton-candy maker! Now there's a job I'd enjoy...

It's so true, Gina! I've thought about using sandwich boards saying, "Help the working poor. Buy my book!"

Tory Butterworth said...

Wow, they talk about people who've "done it all." You really have!


Kristine said...

Gina, I had no idea you had so many interesting jobs! I look forward to some interesting blog posts about your past lives.

Devon Ellington said...

I think the trick is to find a day job that feeds the writing rather than sends you home too exhausted to do anything.

Also, i know several "writers" who ran out to get a part time day job as an excuse not to write, which is a whole different issue.

I've worked in theatre, film, and television in tandem with the writing since I was eighteen, and held a myriad of temp jobs in between. It's interesting, but a few years ago I decided the only office I wanted to sit in was my own.

The theatre work is good because it's physical, which is a nice contrast, but the hours are brutal.

Planet Mom said...

Awesome site! Love the humorous take on "the writer's life." Although I don't write fiction myself, I can relate to much of your commentary and it makes me feel as if somebody else out there understands how difficult this blasted profession truly is (a lot of somebodies apparently).

Thanks. If you get a chance, please pay me a visit sometime ( :-)