Living on Tomato Soup

Can you really make a living writing?

You can.

Of course it depends on what you mean by a ‘living.’ If it means to be able to pay the mortgage, the bills and put food on the table, yes you can do this. It’s not always easy. Ray Bradbury lived on tomato soup and crackers for dinner for his first few years selling short stories. Some writers give up the expense of cars, cable TV, and ever going to dinner so they can stay home and craft their art. Other writers I know work furiously for six months and then live on those saved wages writing for the next six months. It can be a precarious ride. But it’s rarely dull.

Some days you’ll have a silly grin on your face because of your overflowing bank account and the next month that grin will  suddenly be shaped into an ‘O’ of bewilderment as you try to figure out how to pay the electric bill.

I made a living the last three years as a writer. Truly a dream come true. I did it mostly through corporate writing (video scripts, brochures & web copy) but also by selling articles and short stories. It was exhilarating. It could also be maddening. Checks could be slow in coming, projects would fall through and some times clients would dry up. Other times, you’d have three projects at once, with more on the horizon. But there was also life insurance to pay, no paid vacation (unless you worked during that vacation) and sick days spent sniffling over the keyboard.

It’s considered a little gauche to talk about money but when people ask me about writing for a living, what they really want to know are the actual dollar signs. The pay range varies widely but $30,000 – $60,000 is not uncommon. I’ve made both ends of that scale. I know writers that make less and more. I’ve sold short stories for $25.00 ad $1100.00. I’ve written ad copy that’s brought in $250.00 and $3500.00. It really can be all over the place. Like I said; never a dull moment.

So to my writer friends out there who are pounding away at the keys full-time, I salute you and wish you every success. To my writer friends who are just starting out (you know who you are) and are on the precipice of taking the plunge, I also salute you. . .and wish you success, a lack of discouragement, and a never-ending and fertile imagination.

Oh, and a shelf stocked with tomato soup.


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