Friday, August 22, 2014

Too Good to Be True

“Make a great living while working from home (or from a coffee shop, or poolside, or while you travel) ...YOU decide what you write about and for whom.” Sounds almost too good to be true. In fact, that’s just what it is.

The above blurb, promoting a free webinar and report, recently appeared in a Writer’s Digest Update Email. Look at the phrases used—great living, working from home, coffee shop, poolside, while you travel—all things you’d love to do. And that’s the catch. Each of these phrases causes unsuspecting writer wannabees to start day dreaming about a life they’d love to have, away from the drudgery of the cubicle they inhabit every day.

There are lots of seminars and come-ons out there, enticing beginners. Each plays on the dreams of people like you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad to dream. But as far as writing is concerned, it pays to add a touch of practicality to your dreams.

Let’s look at each of these phrases.

Make a great living. Yes, you can make a living as a writer—I’ve been doing it for 29 years. But only a handful of lucky writers makes a “great” living. In fact, as I’ve said so many times in this blog, writing is hard work and generally the pay is often in the moderate range. Unless a writer produces a blockbuster bestseller, about the only way to make big bucks is to do corporate writing. And that puts you right back in the cubicle, even if only virtually.

Working from home. In today’s technologically inspired marketplace, you can do a lot of things from home. Computers make that possible. So why writing? You may be passionate about writing. Or perhaps friends have told you that you write well. Or you may look at writing as a way to get people to notice you.

From a coffee shop. Everyone imagines themselves sitting in a Starbucks writing the next great American novel. Have you been to a Starbucks recently? Chances are you won’t find a seat. That’s because so many people use it as their mobile office. It seems everyone in the place has a laptop open to the Internet or is working on a document or spreadsheet. However, if you ignore the caché of Starbucks and try Dunkin Donuts, for example, you’ll usually have the place to yourself.  Isn’t what you’re doing more important than where you’re doing it?

Poolside. The same applies to sitting poolside and working on your laptop. This isn’t the safest place to work, unless you just happen to have your own pool. If that’s the case, you probably don’t need to make a living as a writer in the first place. But if you try this at a public pool or swim club, chances are the kiddies will splash that shiny new laptop of yours and ruin whatever you are working on.

While you travel. Everyone—and I mean nearly everyone—dreams of traveling the world and writing about it. It seems like the ideal glamorous life. However, they see it from a vacation perspective, not a working perspective. Most likely the only travel they’ve done has been on vacation, where time isn’t important and they can do pretty much what they want. But working while traveling is something else. You’ll be constantly living out of a suitcase. Unless you’re independently wealthy, you’ll have to beg someone else to pay for your trip—and travel isn’t cheap these days. And finally, depending on your schedule and the work you need to accomplish, you may not even have time to enjoy the places you visit. And forget about a family life. You won’t have time for it.

So before you get suckered into free webinars or costly seminars that promise to show you the way to writing riches, think carefully the practical side of being a full-time writer.