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The Real Poop

So you want to be a writer. Ouch. Good luck with that.

We don't mean to be so pessimistic about it, but it’s hard not to be. Great writers have long been respected and celebrated, but the world has changed quite a bit in the past couple of decades. Shakespeare never had to compete with movies and television. Victor Hugo wasn’t up against gaming systems and iPhone applications. (Although, even if he had been, we challenge any app to be as thrilling and breathtaking as The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Yes, we're serious.) With so many distractions, there aren’t as many avid readers as there used to be. But there are still some. You just may have to redefine in your mind what it means to be a writer if you wish to make a living doing it.

Today's writers not only pen novels, short stories, and poems on spec and then pray that a publisher somewhere will recognize their genius, they also provide web copy for companies, guest blog for sites that value their expertise in a given subject area, and write reviews of films or new music for general entertainment outlets. It may not be as much fun as taking three months to write a sci-fi fantasy novel about killer kittens from outer space (you can have that one), but it'll seem like a much better option when you actually have enough cash on-hand to pay for such luxuries as food and shelter.

The thing that's great about being a writer is that you can always pursue on the side the pet projects that have your heart at the same time that you’re working on the more stable projects that take care of the rest of your body. Just because you have to churn out pages upon pages of technical copy in order to pay the bills doesn't mean you can't still shop around your killer kitty concept.

People decide to become writers for a variety of reasons. You may just be a very good writer technically—you know when to dot your "T"s and cross your "I"s (the answer is "never" to both)—so you figure that writing the language for stereo equipment manuals is the best use of your born talent. You may be passionate about a particular subject—life in Congo, for example, or the fashion secrets of famous people—and you decide to spend your days researching and writing about it. So maybe you get a job writing for National Geographic or People, respectively, or you write articles or essays on your own and then submit them to a variety of mags and journals. Perhaps you think that penning that Great American Screenplay will be your ticket into Hollywood. Or maybe you just live, breathe, eat, and sleep the English language, and you want to be the most famous novelist/poet/short story writer the world has ever known. Good thing you're not getting ahead of yourself.

She needs to slow down.

These are all valid reasons for picking up a pen (or a laptop), but it's tough to make money doing any of them. Which is fine, as long as you recognize that fact. If you're not one of those people who has to eat food every day and you feel that having a roof over your head is overrated, it's a very nice way to spend your days. Depending on the specifics of the job, you may be able to work from home and/or make your own hours, and unless you're writing technical copy, you can do what you love to do, writing about things that interest, entertain, or inspire you. So what if people give you the fish-eye when you say you're a writer? You know you're good, and as an artist, you have hardly any insecurities at all. Ahem.