If your eyes paused on the little phrase above - "after hard times returned" - you have good instincts. If they didn't, you aren't paranoid enough yet. A writer is only as secure as his last book's sales, and the publishing industry has a short memory. You can never breathe easy until you have enough money in secure long-term investments that you're living off the interest. I'm not close. Frankly, I'm not even in the "breathing-easy" ballgame yet. If at any point in the game I have three consecutive books that tank, I'm going to be in the line of writers who have to change their names in order to sell, just like the beginner who has the same thing happen.
I have the advantages of having had some success, and having a good agent - so with a different name I will probably be able to sell new work. But there are no guarantees. Not ever. No matter how good I am, or how prolific, or how dedicated. Making a living from writing is living on the edge of somebody else's calculator, and the numbers on that calculator are hard and cold and they know no mercy.
If you're smart (I wasn't for a while, but a couple of very rough years gave me back my brains) you'll never break the rules I listed above. If you do break them, you'll probably live to regret it.
And now you're thinking, "Why would any human being do this?"
Since I quit my day job, I've been broke quite a few times; I've been flush quite a few times. But no matter how rough things got, my kids had food every day and a roof over their heads, and writing has given me relationships with them that I couldn't have had any other way. Writing has given me friendships and challenges that I never could have imagined. It has opened doors, let me reach out to people, let me touch lives. I have seen places I would never have gone to otherwise. I have done things I would never have had the courage to try otherwise.
My life is an adventure, and almost every morning I wake up amazed that I'm the lucky shmuck who gets to do this for a living. Yep - even when I'm broke. Writing is hairy and scary and uncertain, but it's also wonderful and thrilling and a hell of a lot of fun. If I could be anyone in the world doing anything in the world, I wouldn't be Stephen King or Dean Koontz or John Grisham with all their success and all their money . . . I'd be me, and I'd be doing this. Right here, right now, making it on my own and climbing the mountain by myself.
What else could anyone ask for?
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