I was watching an interview with R.A. Salvatore. To be honest, I’m not a huge fan of his writing. However, he is successful, he sounds like a great guy, and at the very least he’s wise. I don’t like horror, but I still am glued to anything Stephen King says. You don’t need the author that has you stuck to the pages to find an author who can give sound advice.
Salvatore was asked once what the best college degree would be for a writer. The response left me puzzled.
Why engineering? Maybe if you wanted to write about architecture? Either way, there was a lot of confusion.
You can’t write when hungry.
In this age of self-publishing, if that’s the path you will be taking, it also costs money to make money. You are your sole investor. It’s $200 for an editor on a novel, often times more, rarely less. Even more rarely if you want quality.
An artist is at least $300 for the cover art. Sure you can do the layout. Of course you can go with stock photos that look immensely generic and someone else may have used. However, don’t you want something original? Something tailored specifically to your book? It just looks better.
Then there are book fairs, conventions, writer friend hangouts, and buying enough books up front so you can sell them at different events. This isn’t cheap. Don’t even get me started on the investment in marketing.
Guess what you can’t do if you’re a starving artist? Any of this. You’ll perpetuate the starving part and art will be a miserable endeavor for you. I have friends in this boat. They can’t sell out. Getting a job outside writing will nullify their dreams (marketing, guys, you are all marketers of some sort).
I sell restaurant equipment. This is what I am known for. I sell restaurant equipment and go on mission trips. I work about 50 hours a week. Fortunately in outside sales there’s a little fudge room. I am struck by my muse and 4:30 and nothing is happening? As long as I get caught up on emails before 8 am the next morning, I’m good. I’ve gone on a writing rampage to answer emails at 1 am.
However, this job is my literary life blood. With it I was able to go to a convention in Utah where I learned, networked, and met a friend I’d known online for around three years. I was able to buy original cover art which will eventually become metal bookmarks. And marketing. I so hate marketing.
All of this was because during the day I sell restaurant equipment. I work a normal job. One writer I met in Utah was a lawyer. His hours were significantly less forgiving than my own and he had a family.
The world works on money, and money from a primary source makes it easy to fund the writing (or drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.).
The short of it? The whole Bohemian thing is really cute. Now get a job.
5 thoughts on “The Other Job of an Author”
Engineering is all about creative problem solving, creating and manipulating complex systems, and the best of it often involves turning what you think on its head. If you want to write about something that isn’t real, you need to create and then manipulate a complex system of the new world, of the plot, of the politics and economies of the people, etc. You need to find creative ways to solve problems like, ‘But WHY does Rupert want to climb the mountain and find the dragon?’ And, for the best of it, you often want to turn everything the reader (and thus probably you) think on its head.
Engineering isn’t the only profession for that kind of thing, but it helps a lot. As a career engineer myself, I spend a lot of my free time world-building. I’m not enough of a writer to actually write a novel, but making worlds, nations, and peoples itself is lots of fun.
I’m such a Bohemian. I also think like an engineer.
You Bohemians 😉 You’re also sort of my hero with how much work you do that you don’t get paid for.
It’s true – everyone should strive to be underpaid and overworked. 😉 But you’ve been there yourself, right?