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The Wealthy Writer

rich writersBy Helen Kaiao Chang

A couple of months ago, I placed an ad on Craigslist for a part-time writer and got about 220 responses.

One of the applicants was a screenplay writer who lacked journalism experience, but said he was versatile and willing to learn. I was interested, until the last sentence in his cover letter: “Besides, you would be supporting a starving artist.”

I hit the delete button.

This person suffered from what I call “The Starving Artist Myth.” It’s the illusion that we have to be poor for our craft. I don’t allow myself this excuse and I definitely don’t want to work with anyone who buys into this myth.

Instead, I prefer to believe in “The Wealthy Writer.” Plenty of them exist, and by adopting financially successful writers as role models, I stay motivated to achieve wealth doing what I love to do.

I’m not sure where the starving artist myth comes from, but I’ve never been willing to go hungry. My first magazine internship paid nothing, so I waitressed at two restaurants to pay the rent. When I struggled to live on the salary of one newspaper, I landed another editing job, which paid a living wage.

As my writing career grew, I learned more about entrepreneurship. I devoured classics such as Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth,” Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” and Marc Allen’s “Visionary Business.”

I also reinforce new beliefs about wealth. I sincerely think that whatever you believe and work towards can come true. I regularly create vision boards – collages made from magazine pictures that depict my dreams. The various images include a writer surrounded by rich tropical foliage, a laptop computer flowing with money, and even bank deposit slips with specific dollar amounts written in. Many of these dreams have come to pass.

Even without vision boards, I find plenty of wealthy writers in the industry – such as on this website. Many freelance writers I know make six-figure incomes. It is not uncommon.

My favorite writers also happen to be rich. I loved their books long before I ever thought about their bank balances, but when I did learn about them later, my jaws dropped. Amy Tan received a $50,000 advance for “The Joy Luck Club,” and the paperback rights sold for $1.23 million. Mitch Albom’s “Tuesdays with Morrie” spent four years on the New York Times bestseller list – making the author a millionaire. Neale Donald Walsch (if I recall the movie correctly) received a $1 million advance for “Conversations with God.” J.K. Rowling isn’t a favorite author of mine, but she commands respect as the world’s first billionaire author.

Of course, none of these writers wrote to get rich. That just happened in the process of pursuing their passion. The money is a blessing. And while I may never reach their level of fame and fortune, I am inspired by their “Wealthy Writer” reality.

During a recent business event, I met an older gentleman who has done very well financially.

“What do you do?” he asked.

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“Ohhh,” he said sympathetically. “It must be slow for you this year.”

I was taken by surprise. Oh yeah, there’s a recession going on, I thought. I had completely forgotten.

“Well, actually,” I said. “I’ve had an abundance of projects this year. I’m very blessed.”

Are you willing to believe you can be a wealthy writer?

Helen Kaiao Chang is a grateful ghostwriter, editor and journalist, who can be found at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Image from http://www.sxc.hu

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • You hit on one of my pet peeves–the myth of the starving writer or artist. I’ve spend my writing career coming up with ways to avoid this, and let me tell you, it is not that difficult. The hardest part is dealing with people’s misconceptions. Thanks for bringing this topic out into the light.
    Charlotte Rains Dixon recently posted..7 Ways to Knowing What to WriteMy Profile

  • Thanks for this article!! My first couple of months have been financially rough as a full-time freelance writer and I realized that that was exactly what I expected! Also, people around me seem to be expecting it also and I’ve let myself fall prey to that. Thanks for the reality check, much needed!

    • Michele… I finally have surrounded myself with people who expect success. It works.

  • Half the time I think people hire me for my enthusiasm and exuberance rather than the 2 decades of experience. I absolutely love this gig!
    I’m completely committed to following my passion for writing and am thrilled to see where it has taken me so far. I would gladly starve for this profession and am very blessed that I don’t have to.
    Amy Spreeman recently posted..Four Rules for Starting Your Business BlogMy Profile

  • Thank you for all your comments. It makes me feel good to know that my circle of wealthy writer friends is growing — to include you!!

    Regarding Mike’s comment — please remember there were 220 applicants. The playwriight was not qualified because of lack of experience, but his comment put the nail in the coffin. Whatever his intention, I read it as playing the “feel sorry for me” card. Sorry, no go.

    As Jim said, may we all reach our writing and financial goals this year!! May we all be “wealthy writers”!
    Helen Chang recently posted..Jun 27- Ghostwriter NeededMy Profile

  • I guess I’m in the minority on this one. So, the person isn’t qualified for the position (no journalism experience), but you’re OK with that. Yet, you decide not to go further with him because of what might have been a serious remark, but probably was simply a light-hearted one. Although self-confidence is an important quality in any employee, actually being qualified to do the job is at least just as important. Attitude can make up for only so much.

    • Mike, that’s why what we say in our cover letters… paper or email… is so important. We have to do our best to meet the prospective employer where they are at. I too would have eliminated a candidate who (1) didn’t have the specific qualifications and (2) seemed to be on a totally different wave length than I am. A compatible attitude is important imo.

  • GREAT post, Helen. I grapple with this so often with other writers, who assume they can’t earn well because there’s a downturn, or because that’s just at odds with their preconception of what writers’ lives are like.

    Those of us who believe we can earn well tend to do it. I thought there was still enough work out there in the downturn for one bitty little freelance writer…and 2009 was my biggest earning year, and I believe I’ll top it this year, again. If we think something just isn’t possible, we don’t tend to try to make it happen.
    Carol Tice recently posted..Mailbag- Could I Monetize My BlogMy Profile

  • I too don’t buy into the myth of suffering for our art. I saw it all through my education as a musician and a brief stint in theater (where it’s especially rampant!). I prefer to get paid, and get paid well, for my services. It took me a lot of years to get to the point where I thought I deserved that. There are days (many of them unfortunately) where I slip into the old mindset. It’s not pleasant. So I forge ahead, every day trying to keep my head screwed on straight.

    May we all succeed, in whatever way that means to you. So much better for ourselves personally and for the industry as a whole.
    Jim Lochner recently posted..CD Review- Captain from Castile – The Classic Film Scores of Alfred NewmanMy Profile

    • A Buddhist friend of mine often says “suffering is optional” and he’s a surprising realist. The first time he said it I was offended… then I got it. My attitude is soooooo important.

  • Helen:

    Nice article. Thanks to you and Anne for sharing it.

    “I sincerely think that whatever you believe and work towards can come true.” 110% true. Think you’re going to starve, and you will. Think you can’t crack a top tier publication, and you’ll never send a query.

    At the beginning of this year, my first as a full-time freelancer, I wrote down production and earnings goals, as well as how I was going to get there. Well, I’ve achieved one and on my way to attaining another. COuld I have had a better year? Yes. Why didn’t I? because of me.

    You have yo be positive and KNOW you will succeed.


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