Okay , so I’m not going to get rich from writing unless it’s by some fluke accident, but then I’ve pretty much known that all my writing life. The truth of it is people, you can believe me when I say, most of us don’t write for the fame and riches.
Here in Canada winning the $50,000 Giller Prize or collecting a large advance would be a dream come true. But the truth is, you might have more chance at winning big on the lottery. Depressing thoughts for some, I suppose.
Although these things do happen they are definitely the exception. Most writers do not receive a huge advance or see their book on the bestseller lists. As Canadians— we are always told, ‘ Here in Canada..’— it’s a bit of a sobering thought for some.
According to Statistics Canada, a Canadian writer on average makes between $18,000 and $22,000 annually from his or her writing – and this includes royalties from book sales as well as income from grants, giving readings and workshops, writing reviews for magazines and newspapers, and earning a yearly stipend from the Public Lending Right Commission. I should add monies received from access copyright here as well.
Suffice it to say many authors do not give workshops or visit schools and, from my own experience, receiving a writing grant is no easy feat. In theory it sounds wonderful but the truth of it is many writers find them near impossible to get. Not to mention the fact that not everyone can take a leave from their work in order to write full time. Many of us hold down other jobs to pay the bills and make ends meet. If we had to live off the fruits of our labour we’d starve to death for sure.
One statistic from back in 2005, estimated that 3,000 Canadian authors – which amounts to 11 per cent of the total 27,500 who identified themselves either as self-employed or salaried writers – reported no earnings from their writing. Hmmm. No earnings… Not difficult to figure out why many of us need to work at other jobs, is it? I don’t know any other job where you report zero earnings. Eeek!
So there are all the sobering facts for Canadian writers. Impressive, aren’t they? Some might say we Canadian are a depressing bunch to even be looking at these dismal statistics. The truth of it is most writers here in Canada are more than aware of these facts and if writing was something we did to gain fame and riches we sure as heck wouldn’t be writing. Can you blame us?
But for me, for many of us, writing is more about self-expression than making it big. Most writers write as a means of nurturing our creative minds, challenging ourselves to produce gloriously beautiful prose, and finally sharing what we’ve created with those who are interested in reading what we’ve written. Many of the writers I’ve spoken to over the past year have told me that holding their book in their hands was far more rewarding than any advance or royalties they may have received.
So here I am. Writing because writing is what makes me feel fulfilled, certainly not the meager earnings I can expect to receive from my creative endeavors. Am I optimistic that one day I will be able to retire and write full time? You bet! If a writer didn’t remain optimistic we wouldn’t subject ourselves to the torture of submitting again and again and again.
So while my bubble didn’t suddenly burst, and while I always expect that there are exceptions to every rule—and hey, I might just be that exception. Right?—the statistics speak for themselves. So I’m here, opening myself up on the page for others to praise or to scrutinize, not for fame and riches, but to feed some inner need, to make me feel complete.
How about you, what are your honest expectations as a writer?