Many people ask themselves (and sometimes others) this question. Maybe you are one of them. You like writing. Maybe you write well. You have lots of ideas for plots and characters, and you feel that when you write, you are doing something creative and sometimes wonderful. But you don’t have a lot of time to devote to writing. After all, you still need to go to work, raise your family, go shopping, and so on. So should you be a writer? You probably think I am going to say that depends on how much time you can spend, how good you think you are, how likely you think you can get published, and so on. No, I am not going to say that. The answer is much more simple, and very clear.
No, you should not be a writer. That is the answer. Forget it. Don’t even think about it. You will never be a writer, and you should give up any notions or fantasies of being a writer. It’s over.
I am not kidding! I mean it. And here is why. Being a writer is a terrible idea. First, you cannot survive financially as a writer. Income is low and sporadic. The chances of ever making even a dime from writing are incredibly low, about the same as getting hit by lightning. But even if a miracle happens and you get published, remember that the average book sells a total of 600 copies, which means your total take (on average) will be around $600-1000. You could increase your sales by getting a publicist and paying for ads, and doing lots of marketing. All of which is expensive, and although your sales might get into the thousands, you won’t break even.
You could get really lucky and have good sales, even into the tens of thousands. It still won’t be enough to support yourself. I know quite a few such successful writers and they almost all kept their day jobs (luckily for them).
Second, being a writer is harder than most other jobs. You never have any time off. You might like to take some time off, but your brain won’t let you. In the middle of the barbecue, you suddenly have an idea, and you must write it down. A great piece of dialog has a half-life of about ten minutes in your brain. If you don’t write it down, it could be lost forever. For poetry, you have only a minute at the most. And then, when you are seated at the computer, with several hours cleared, and you start typing, half the time you read what you wrote, and it’s so bad you just delete the whole thing.
Third, writing is bad for you. It is a sedentary occupation, which leads to health problems, and it isolates you from other people. When your spouse calls out “Honey, are you there? I wanted to ask you something,” either you don’t hear her or you cringe at the infringement of your time and the potential disastrous interruption of an incredibly moving (though totally fictional) scene. So romance writers need to forgo romance, mystery writers don’t have time for mysteries, adventure writers never leave their chairs—and that’s just the fiction writers. People who write about art don’t paint, biographers don’t lead interesting lives, and science writers don’t do research.
I could go on and on, but you get the point. There are so many reasons to not be a writer that clearly the answer to the question posed in the title is no.
Does this distress you? Do you think I am being unfair, or unkind? Do you think this is a cruel answer? If you say yes to any of those, then I am right.
Do you not give a damn what I say, and you will keep writing no matter what, even if you never publish anything and never make a penny, but it doesn’t matter, because that isn’t why you write, but because you have no choice, the words just come from somewhere, and you must get them down, and you don’t really care what happens after that, whether anyone reads them, and if they do, whether they like them or not, it is just something you do, and I can go to hell, but you are not going to stop doing it?
Well, if that’s true, then I’m wrong, so go ahead. You already are a writer, so don’t stop now. Write!