SHIT PEOPLE ASK WRITERS




Updated: 14/03/2017

I’m just 27 years old, but to Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix that’s a lifetime. So, with a lifetime of experience in the realm of writing, I have a fair idea of what it’s really like to be a writer. Unfortunately, that also means that I have a lifetime of experience responding to questions people ask writers.

Now, most questions are easy to answer but, some of them really make me wonder how taxing the process of snapping every single bone in the human body can possibly be. Also, how long does it take for someone to die of internal bleeding? Anyway, here’s a short list of questions that writers commonly get asked and their answers in reasonable detail.

How much money do writers make?

Believe it or not there are tons of specialisations within the realm of writing; you could be a content writer, a poet, a scriptwriter, a copywriter, a journalist, a travel writer etc. The point being the pay scale is rather varied. There are people on the internet who write for as little as 50 paisa/word and there are those who will charge you more than the Income Tax Department does; and that’s a lot.

A content writer makes anywhere between Rs. 4.5 to Rs. 6 lakh annually, a travel writer might make lesser in cash but may get free flights, hotel stays, food and transport. A journalist can make anywhere between Rs. 6 to Rs. 12 lakh or more depending on their designation and organisation.

However, the highest paying writing jobs are those in the marketing and advertising world. I consider these the holy grail of writing. Technical writers can make up to Rs. 20 lakh an year, an experienced copywriter can make anywhere between Rs.10 – 15 lakh a year or more.

These however are still fulltime jobs, so... let’s talk about the “suicide squad”: authors, songwriters and screenplay writers. These writers can make anywhere between Rs.0 to Rs. Infinity/year. I say that because of the uncertainty in these professions. Persistence and irrationality form the bedrock of such writing careers. They teach you that patience is capacious word.

Can writing be a real career?

As you may have gauged from the section above, certain forms of writing make for a very lucrative profession. There are definitely more and more jobs out there for writers with sensible and satiable appetites. For the insatiable beasts who fancy wallowing in a perpetual abyss of hope i.e. the suicide squad, this can be a little tricky.

If you’re into one of these forms of writing you MUST have a day job, an effective freelance writing background or be a slave writer to an organisation just to stay afloat till you reach the tipping point; a point that only a handful of novelists, poets, lyricists and screenwriters ever reach. I speak of these pursuits in a profoundly depressing tone because no amount of warning can prepare you for them.

It is a lot like your sexual orientation: if you’re not gay, you mustn’t pretend to be gay for the sake of a queer parade. Similarly, unless you have been cursed into the thankless, harsh world of suicidal writing professions; please get a job, find love, get a house, a car and have children, because contrary to what your rebellious teenage brain might tell you... those are all really good things.

What does a writer do?

Let me assure you that there is a lot more to being writer than just the physical task of writing; that in fact might be the least interesting part of the process. Most of a writer’s time is spend writing poorly, getting feedback and editing the rough draft. Good writing comes from re-writing, deleting the bad bits and at times even abandoning something you’ve spent months working on.

Professionally speaking a writer is the creator, seller, marketer and distributor of content as a product. All writers must indulge in the above to varying degrees. What a writer does is dictated to a large extent by his or her specialisation as well.

A lot of a freelance writer for one spends a fair amount of time finding work and collecting payments. While any writer worth his ink must write every day, a lot of that writing may not translate into financial remuneration. Take for example this blog I write... it doesn’t make money for me but, it helps me stretch my muscles. It’s like a gym for my brain.

That brings us to the second most important workout for a writer... reading. The more one reads the better one gets. A well-read writer is more aware of what’s out there, what’s clichéd, what can be pulled off and of course reading offers entertainment as well.

How long does it take before a writer makes it?

Stop, you’re going to make me cry. That’s what this question does to me sometimes. However, a lot depends on what your definition of “Making it” or being successful is. Half a decade ago if I met a writer in my position, I’d call him a successful writer.

That’s primarily because my standard back then was: Anyone who makes money from writing what they enjoy writing is successful. That rather rudimentary definition changed as time went by. So, for the sake of answering the question let’s set this standard to an acceptable average.

Let’s say any writer who earns enough to sustain a lifestyle acceptable to him/her while enjoying his work is a successful writer. If that’s your standard you will probably reach it after 4-5 years of persistent and consistent efforts.


However, if your idea of success revolves around notions of fame, financial opulence or wielding of intellectual superiority then, one can never answer the question above with certainty. Success in those terms takes different amounts or time for different people and for some it never comes.

Have more questions that you’d like to add to this list? Leave a comment, Tweet to me @Likhnewaala or message me on my Facebook Page.

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