Writing - is it really about the money for you?

TLDR: unless you are one of the 1%, probably not.


4/22/20062 min read

For a lot of people they feel like they will be successful writers at the point they can say they make a living at it. An understandable desire. But for most people this is a delusion that will stop you doing your best writing.

I am not talking about a 'professional attitude', all writers need to know the ropes, turn up to meetings on time, get their drafts in when they say they will.

I have a lot to say about this as I see some really well-meaning but still damaging crap around about being a writer. So it's going to take a couple of posts to boil it all down, but lets start with...


There are astonishingly few people who make money fulltime climbing. There are a few super stars (Leo Houlding is the current UK wonder boy http://www.leohoulding.com/) but even the UKs finest have other jobs to pay for their exploits.

But hold on, how can I compare writers and mountaineers? Well very easily. If you done a very little climbing (as I have) and are a writer (as I am) then you can see they are both 'imagination into action' pursuits that, at their purist, are done for their own reward. I am absolutely sure that the thrill a mountaineer gets on seeing then executing a new route is equivalent to the the writer coming up with and writing a new project.

Mallory, Hillary, Messner are poets of the mountain as much as Beckett, Joyce and (insert favourite authour) are explorers of the imagination. Making money was either a means to an end or a (welcome) by-product of the adventures they had. Money was just not the point.

Your writing

So why do people bother thinking that money should be the end point for a dramatist? This is a very serious question, it will define what kind of writer you are and what kind of work you will do.

If you really think that making money at what you do is the defining characteristic of your writing desires, then you need to get with the program and write for TV. Simple to state, harder to do.

Start without thinking about money

First you must prove yourself. And you will almost certainly do this for free. And it might actually take your entire life time to do this, and there are many pitfalls - you may not get lucky, or actually be good enough.

Mountaineers do not prove themselves by re-climbing Snowdon or Mont Blanc. They make a new route, or do something much better than before (faster, younger). Writers too develop a voice, a new angle or subject.

Somewhere along the line you will need to get a play on, get a film made, win a competition. And to do that you need to produce something that makes people sit up and take notice. This is going to be something that you feel passionate about, you can't fake this or phone something in, it's got to be real.

And you need to back yourself for this venture, you provide the imagination, skill, resources and determination to succeed.

And then?

Well then you have to make some decisions on a project by project basis - why am I doing this one? Do I want to make money now? Can I put myself through the hell of being a TV scribe wannabe?

And project by project you have to chose your route and

Some further reading

Still keen to be a full time paid writer for hire?

Have a read of David Bishop on the long journey to write for Doctors and what he found when he got there: http://viciousimagery.blogspot.com/search/label/Doctors