How can I go about becoming a full-time author?

Here are some things I would offer from my writing adventures over the past few decades:

1. Appreciate Hemingway’s example: he felt being a full-time journalist likely ruined is writing. If you take on any writing gig just to “write full time,” you may end up quite unhappy. Instead, write what you know, and what you love - whether that ends up being full-time, financially lucrative, or neither.

2. Be aware that writing can become a drug. Some people get addicted to writing and their lives, relationships, health and well-being are ruined by it. I do not mean that talented artists won’t have to sacrifice for their art (because finding your own voice and perfecting your craft can be extremely demanding)…but sometimes this sentiment becomes a smokescreen for alienating loved ones, being irresponsible, elevating creativity above self-care, and other self-destructive patterns.

3. Commercial viability and creative authenticity seldom intersect in modern capitalist culture. As a result, less than 1% of artists of any kind succeed in supporting themselves financially by “following their bliss.” Of the small percentage beyond this 1% that are able to be financially successful, the vast majority sell themselves out to what the market demands. Technical writing, writing soft porn (“Romance”), copywriting for marketing and advertising, ghost-writing for others, writing to spec, etc.…all of these “writing to market” efforts can become lucrative, just as becoming a wedding photographer, musical jingle composer or a commercial illustrator can become lucrative. But is that what you really want to do…? I would recommend against it - unless you really enjoy that sort of thing - and instead focus on what you are most compelled or inspired to write.

4. Various art forms have been going out of style for some time, replaced by entirely new art forms. Fine art photography and painting seem to be going the way of music for symphony orchestra and live theatrical plays. Likewise, public interest in the full-length fiction novel has been waning for some time. What is replacing these art forms? Video games, cable TV shows, digital animation, YouTube, graphic novels, feature films streamed online, etc. And I think this trend will probably continue with brand new art forms (VR quests?). And right now, far too few of these media have decent writing; in fact, most of the writing is awful. If you want to do society a solid, then perhaps targeting one of them that interests you to provide truly excellent narratives, dialogue, characters and so forth could be extremely helpful and rewarding.

5. Work your ass off. Yes, this applies to finding your unique voice and perfecting the craft of writing - I subscribe to the 10,000-hour expectation in this regard. But it also applies to the rest of life: to your relationships, to your means of self-support, to your education and mental stimulation, and to your engagement with lifestyle choices that nurture every aspect of your being. If you are not working hard and living your life fully…well, what will you be writing about? How will you recharge your creative batteries or discover new material? How will you maintain the discipline and focus to actually write?

6. Find that difficult balance between listening to the feedback others provide, and ignoring that feedback when it compromises your vision. For me this took many years. What helped the most was attending writing groups and conferences to improve my fiction-writing skills (and learn how to check my writer’s ego at the door), while keeping my poetry and essays out of that particular feedback loop. I have also employed editors when I knew something wasn’t working and really needed a reader-0ver-my-shoulder.

7. Avoid hyperspecialization. Even if you only become exceptionally competent at one form of writing, try on as many styles, techniques and formats as you can. Try to master more than one if possible. By doing this, I quickly realized that I do not have the patience or aptitude to frame my writing within a movie script format, but that I really enjoyed writing song lyrics. In other words, I discovered some strengths and weaknesses in myself…and some forms of writing that I would never have thought I could learn or appreciate.

My 2 cents.

(From Quora question:


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