Can Writers Make a Living From Their Writing?

Courtesy of
A funny thing happened after last week's post, How Do You Know You're a Writer? While wandering the internet, probably via Facebook, I ended up on Disqus. After a brief examination, I decided to join.

The Disqus site states:

"If you publish content, our platform can increase reader engagement and give you the right tools to grow. Even better, it’s simple to install and free to use."

What's not to love about that?

So, I joined and followed three groups, including a writing one.

This group doesn't allow you to self-promote (I know, I know, the Disqus description implies otherwise), so my blog post last week was taboo, but they did allow me to share this from the end of last week's post:

What makes us writers? The desire to share, to tell. The pressure of words building up in our brains, yearning for release into the world of print.

I enjoyed the discussion as many members of this community chimed in. Then, someone who had a bone to pick with me and everyone on the thread objected. We were NOT writers because we did not live on the income of our writing. Wow! He exhausted several paragraphs and posts telling us to get our words straight and give up on childish fantasies. We were not writers.

If you know me, you know I didn't take well to his negativity. I waited, though, and let my reaction cool before responding.

Here's my response:

I have read your response with great interest. Why? Because I disagree with what you are saying. I waited 24 hours to respond, though, in order to reply with thought not a knee-jerk reaction.

First, I'm intrigued that you believe you must make your living writing in order to be called a writer. There are several issues I take with this, first and foremost, most authors do NOT make a living writing. Here's one of many links that will support this information. Here's another with a chart.
As a member of the writing community, this is a fact I have been aware of for years. Very few authors make a living from their writing. Most have to support their writing by working in other fields.

Second, in the publishing community, a writer is someone who writes, an author is someone whose writing has been published. However, in other industries, writing can be a profession, but it's usually referred to by titles such as technical writer, copy writer, advertising or marketing executive, instructional designer, etc. Based on these definitions and yours, I am a writer and an author. I do, actually, receive a substantial part of my income from writing, and I do have several short stories and essays that have been published.

Another point that bothered me about your argument is the long list of artists who never made a livable income from their art and only became famous after their death: Bach, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Poe, Van Gogh. So, was Melville not a writer, Bach not a composer, Van Gogh not a painter?

On one point, I have to thank you. I have not been called a child in more years than I care to admit. At my age, I'll take the suggestion that I'm youthful and run with it.

I appreciate your input and am thankful this post generated so much conversation. As always, I think discussion is a great avenue for opening the door to further knowledge as well as providing inspiration.

What would you have done? Did I feed the troll or was my response a good thing?


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