It’s the Hard Knock Life

Being a writer is the hard knock life.

There is this image that writers get out of bed at around noon, get to the computer by one, work a couple of hours, and then take a nap. There might be writers that do this, but I don’t know any.

Being a writer involves long hours, even if you make your living doing it. It involves self-promotion, networking, reading, writing, research, re-reading, rewriting, correspondence, rewriting again, contractual obligations, and God knows what else.

In addition, a lot of writers, even professionals have day jobs. If you are a writer with a day job, you don’t get a free pass on all that stuff. Instead, you do it when you get home. After forty-plus hours at work, in the time when other people are relaxing or playing with their children, you are expected to be a writer.

All told, you can expect to spend around eight hours on a polished three thousand word short story. If you manage to sell it to a professional market, you will get five cents a word.  That is $150.00, or $18.75 an hour. That doesn’t sound bad. You’ll see that money in six months if you are lucky. That is the best-case scenario.

Professionally paying markets, at least in the horror genre where I spend a lot of time, are relatively few. Most paying markets pay between a quarter of a cent and 4 cents a word. Others are for exposure only. Being a writer also means rejection, and lots of it. You’ll write a lot of stories that never get published. I read recently that Ray Bradbury couldn’t make a living writing short stories these days. Before you quit your day job, you might consider all that.

If you are thinking your novel will save you, most novels never make any money. If you are a first-time novelist with a small press, you may not be getting an advance, and if you do, you’ll be lucky if it buys groceries for a month.

Chances are, you’ll never make any money, no one outside of a small group of people will ever read anything you wrote, and you will miss out on a lot of things in your family life that other people get to enjoy.

Yes, I have stopped writing from time to time. It is never intentional. I decide not to write that day. The same thing happens the next day. Soon, I found that I hadn’t written anything in six months, sometimes longer. Writing is hard, and it is easy to spend a relaxing evening playing with my son, watching a movie, and going to bed early. Writing means staying up late to write after he goes to sleep and going to work tired the next morning.

Still, here I am. I write my blogs every week. I have a personal blog I occasionally write, as well. I have fifteen short stories out at different markets and continue to write those. I’ve also got two novels I need to work on.

I always come back.  I love stories. I love the written word. I love the feeling when something I wrote really works. Sometimes, you just need to reset and remind yourself why you work so hard on writing when other people are keeping up with the Kardashians or restoring classic cars.

Most people have quit writing at one point or another. I wish I could say something inspiring that would get you through those times when you don’t feel like doing it anymore, but I’ve got nothing. If you are a writer, you’ll be back.

Jack Campbell, Jr. is a dark fiction writer in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared in various venues including Twenty 3 Magazine, Danse Macabre, and Insomnia Press. He writes about reading, writing, and life on his blog at

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