I was chatting to a guy at a party last night. Nice, intelligent chap. We started talking about what we do for a living, and he told me about his myriad, different educations and career changes. In passing he mentioned that if he won the lottery he would become a writer. I hinted that probably it wasn’t the right occupation for him but instead I should have plainly said: Mate, you will NOT!
Why? Because if you are waiting to win the lottery you cannot possibly be capable of or willing to put in the hard work to become or do anything at all, least of all a job in the arts and creative industries.
You have to be able to put your ass down in a chair to write, rewrite and edit for days, months, years, decades. Are you sure you would do that if you won the lottery? Most people would buy a house, invest in a business, or burn the money on more pleasant pursuits.
To be a writer, you have to be willing to write, which means to write a lot, which means work. Moreover, you have to be willing to devour countless books, read, study, network like crazy, attend countless writers groups, writing workshops, masterclasses, potentially do a few years of university if that’s necessary.
You have to be willing to master the business side (marketing, sales and PR) of things, because EVERY job in the arts industries has a business side to it, as well, not just a creative side or craft.
Are you telling me you will be willing to do that if, and ONLY if you win the lottery?
There is a ludicrous misconception that all people in creative jobs (not just writers) make art for fame and fortune. Those who do, are waiting to win the lottery.
Most creatives I know, and I know countless writers, actors, film directors, photographers, artists and what not, just work their asses off against all odds. They are willing to put in the work for little in return, because they can and they are ready to.
So let me tell you what it takes to become a writer. It’s not winning the lottery.
To be a writer you have to be willing to start working for little money or even for free, which is what most of us do. You have to be willing to put up with long hours of work, with working extra hours on top of your day job (some writers have day jobs), with working several day jobs, with working long after you have tucked your kids in (some writers have families) or with working for less than you need to pay your bills (hell, I know some successful writers who do!).
You have to learn to meet deadlines, under pressure, on short notice, and still produce good, if not great work.
You have to be able to put yourself OUT there. All the time. Gulp down criticism by people who have never created anything or worked on honing a craft as much as you have.
You have to be willing to deal with eye strain, back pain. Learn to deal with feedback and rejection. You also have to be ready to work days, months and years to hone a craft that nobody cares about. Because let’s face it, nobody cares. Nobody wants to pay for art, except people who have disposable income.
Oh, wait, we are all crazy artists, I hear you saying! You think it’s easy to do ANYTHING in this life?
You think it’s easy to be a doctor, pilot, engineer, miner, cook, cleaner?
Have you ever asked yourself why artists do what they do?
Why on earth would anyone sit down and spend years writing a novel? Why would anyone work on set 15 hours a day making a movie? Why would anyone waste their youth playing a violin, instead of just enjoying life or doing something more profitable?
It’s because artists have a burning desire to create. They wake up with it every single day. They live with it. They own it. That’s why they write novels, make films, compose symphonies. That’s why they are willing to put in the work. And, you know what? Winning the lottery cannot help with that.