Weathering the Storm: The Starving Writer


As writers, I’m sure the majority of us would love to be able to make money doing what we love the best. After all, it’s been often said by many a high school counselor that “if you find a job you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

Well, what those well-meaning counselors didn’t take into account are the often incredible difficulties writers face in even getting their work seen and appreciated, much less paid for it.

We’ve all faced this quandary, and only about a year ago, I was embittered over this sad but frequent reality. Why do I have to work 9 hours a day to pay my bills and push the thing I love to the sidelines? Why is everything always about having enough money to survive?

I was definitely suffering from starving writer syndrome, a well-known variation of starving artist disease.

What I didn’t want to hear about in that depressing and self-righteous state of mind was the work and, yes, the investment of both time and resources that it would take to actually write and publish and market a book. In my naive mind, I imagined stories like Rowling’s or King’s to be something out of a fairy tale. They were just so darn good that the publishers dropped everything and ran to them, and now they’re bathing in a bathtub full of dollar bills for being nothing else but a talented writer.

I thought that was the way it had to work. I just had to be a good writer and hope and pray that I would get lucky and wait for this magical dream-come-true to fall into my lap.

But now, as I’m being coached along this previously magical process, I’m realizing it’s anything but magical. It takes not only being a talented writer, but a good marketing approach, a message, a heart to serve and change the world, and a LOT of determination and patience.

Starving Writer Syndrome-AlyCatAuthorWhen I first began this journey to publishing, I was very hesitant. I knew the opportunity to publish and make my dream come true was finally here, in my lap. I had money in savings put away and a really good credit score. Still, I hesitated because in my mind, publishing wasn’t supposed to work this way. It wasn’t supposed to involve me putting money into my book. Why would I do that? Why should I pay to write my own words?

Then I learned more about the differences in the publishing world today. Traditional publishing, what I was envisioning was vital to the success of every author, was no longer the only option. Now I had a choice. I could choose to take the middle path and be coached, and in just beginning this process I learned so much about both publishing industries and the actual statistics for author earnings from each. Traditional publishing had me sorely disappointed. And when I learned how rare it was for people like Rowling or Collins or King to exist, I was even more discouraged.

I asked for advice from my godmother, because the thought of an investment into my book was so scary to me. She gave me this sage advice: “Every business has to have a start-up cost, and what else is your book but the start of your business?

Those words helped me seal the deal and gain a coach who could walk me through the publishing industry and help me learn all the things I needed to know about marketing and building what I now know is my own business.

I used to hate it when people said writing was a business. Now I know it’s true, and I have to treat it like one if I’m going to be able to make a living doing it (and get over my starving writer mentality!). No one sells lemonade by just making it in their kitchen and then trying to get Coca-Cola to buy the formula. If I’m going to make a living writing and make the impact I want in the world, I’m going to have to be intentional about doing so in every step that I take.

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you on the next ship in!

Tell me your opinion: What financial struggles have you faced as a writer? What do you hope to gain from writing, whether it’s finances, an audience, or just your voice in the world? Let me know in the comments below!

Storms Weathered


  1. Thanks for this post! I can totally relate, I’m in the process of learning a lot of the things you mentioned. I started writing for myself, just in a journal. But then I realized that creativity is meant to be shared, so I faced the terrifying task of putting my writing out into the world (via my blog). Then I realized that no one was reading it except my mom and my husband, and I realized that I had a duty to share it with as many people as I possibly could (enter marketing!). And that’s where I am now: building an audience, refining my message, figuring out how I can best help others. I was like you and thought that “if I write it, they will come”. Boy, was I wrong! I guess my goal is to someday make money from my writing, but for now, I’m content just expressing myself and sharing my message about the importance of facing our fears in creativity and in life.

    • Aly

      I think it’s great that you’re content where you are, Haley! There’s a danger to too much worrying over who’s reading and who’s not. The important thing is that nothing you write is wasted. It’s all valuable practice, and the more you do it, the faster you learn how to do it better.

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