On how not to break

I was asked if I have any advice on how to get by as a writer when a) it's financially tricky, and b) one is weird and introverted. I thought I'd frame the reply as a blog post, because it's long.

Dear question-asker: I don't have any "do this, do that" for you, but I can tell you about my own experiences, and maybe that will be helpful. I've been struggling with this question for as long as I've been writing. Some people can work full-time and write. I can't. I can't write full-time either. It took a very long time before I figured out how to work and write and not burn myself out. I worked in customer service for many years, because I didn't have the education to do anything else (I did have some university studies and arts college stuff, but it didn't exactly amount to a degree), and that kind of extrovert work - and the hours - very nearly broke me. In hindsight, what I probably should have done right away was get a degree that could lead to a more quiet job. But I was never a good student, and dropped out of university. Quiet unqualified jobs were nonexistent. Hence customer service.

I did manage the Swedish equivalent of community college, and studied creative writing for a few years, and also trained as a creative writing teacher. I had to go back to customer service for a while, but lo! These days I make a living as a freelancer. That means I do stuff like critique other people's manuscripts, translate between Swedish and English, teach a creative writing workshop every now and then, and very occasionally write fiction for games and interactive storytelling because it's fun. I do some consultant work for a literary salon. I make enough that I can pay the rent and have time for writing my own fiction. To me, this is absolutely perfect: I can control my own hours, and I don't have to meet a lot of people - but I'm forced to meet enough people that I retain some sort of social skills. (I believe one should nurture one's introversion, but one also needs to get out of one's comfort zone. Even if interacting with people sometimes makes you want to stab them.) I also stay more or less sane. As you've probably noticed, I haven't included royalties. That's because I can't rely on them. Not a lot of writers can.

Dear asker - you know who you are and what you need, which is extremely important. The next step is to try to build a life that makes room for who you are, while at the same time lets you get by. For me it meant downshifting, and quitting a well-paid extrovert job to become self-employed and not so well-paid instead. For you it might mean something else. But whatever you do, be kind to yourself and nurture that weirdness so you can unleash it on the world. We need you. Don't break.

Mary Robinette Kowal recently wrote a great post on being a full-time writer, too. Check that out.