The writing life

Like many writers, I knew from as soon as I could clutch a pencil that writing was a thing I wanted to do. As a child, I wrote poetry and short stories. I fantasised about what it would mean to be an author – I think that’s common too. As I sauntered into my teens, I spent more time thinking about what I wanted to write than thinking about wanting to be an author, and I kept writing the poetry and the short stories.

It may be worth mentioning that I wanted to be a musician, too. I wanted to be Batman, I thought teaching might be interesting, I knew from as far back as I could remember that no one thought ‘author’ was a viable and sensible career path and that I’d need to keep my options open. When I was a kid it was far more feasible to be a full time professional author than it is now.

I wrote my first novel in my teens – I knew it wouldn’t be good or publishable, I just wanted the experience of putting down that many words and to get to know what a novel meant from the inside. I studied Literature at Uni, and I kept writing, poetry, short stories, novels. By the time I was in my early twenties I had a rejection slip from every major UK publisher.

At about this time I became bored with writing versions of myself and started paying more attention to other people, and what I could learn about the world. I think this is a really important shift in the life of any fiction author, although it doesn’t happen to everyone. We all start by playing out our personal fantasies, but good books usually require more than that.

I had a lot of fiction published in my twenties – mostly as ebooks in what was then a fledgling industry. I’d have to make an effort to figure out how many novels I’ve written, but, it’s a lot of novels. And of course I had that fantasy that I’d write a novel and it would naturally find its audience and magic things would happen. It isn’t like that, and finding an audience has taken time, and I’m still very small and obscure in the grand scheme of things. Success is a heady blend of luck and persistence, assuming you have something people want to read.

I got into writing non-fiction in my thirties, first with blogging and magazine articles, and then later with Pagan books. That’s been interesting to add to the mix and I enjoy doing it, but fiction remains my main passion. I’ve sauntered into graphic novel writing, game scenarios, and film scripts, and have no real plan for how any of this is supposed to develop.

Like most writers, I don’t earn anything like enough to live in. A reasonably successful author – full time, professional and with a mid-tier contract at a large publishing house, can aspire to make £10k a year. This is not generally considered to be good money in any other context. So I write poetry, and short stories, novels, graphic novels, scripts, and all the rest of it, and I work alongside that to stay afloat. I’m greatly helped by Patreon support ( ). I’m ok with not being affluent, I’ve never been affluent, I have infamously low standards and limited interest in material culture. But, it makes me cross and unhappy that arts industries are increasingly structured so that only people who are funded by other means can participate – people with good pensions, supportive spouses, inheritance, and the like. It keeps the poorer folk out, it makes it hard for anyone not well enough to work a day job and create as well.  I don’t want creativity to be a hobby for the rich, I want it to be a viable line of work for those with talent and passion.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

5 responses to “The writing life

  • bifelicia319

    Ooof. I feel this so hard. In my case, I had so much passion for writing in my younger years that has been sucked away by the stresses and responsibilities in the real world. And now I barely remember what it’s like to write like that and I remember even less what it’s like to have the inspiration to write in such a fashion — so completely swallowed in it to spend innumerable hours at my keyboard to get it all down before it flies away like a wisp of a dream. (Sorry, I bet that run-on sentence was cringe as hell)

    Honestly, I feel like the deaths of the liberal arts in primary school has contributed to creativity only getting to be a hobby for the rich. Here in the States, there are so few public schools that stubbornly stick to a more classical education with a rich foundation of liberal arts, it’s tragic. And one of them was the site of a mass shooting almost 3 years ago. (Bringing that up because I didn’t even know Florida had any schools like that until the Stoneman Douglas shooting happened and it happens to be, if I recall correctly, the only public school in Florida that offers such a quality education)

    Even being immersed in the liberal arts in childhood is something more reserved for those whose parents can afford to send them to private schools. 😞

  • Richard

    I am one of those who took the householder’s path, if you will. I worked all kinds of jobs, had kids, bought a home, all while knowing I’d rather be making stories and music. Now I’m a few months from 70. I wrote haltingly, in short spurts, from my forties until late-fifties. Then a story that had been slow-cooking in my mind and heart started clamoring for release, and over the course of three years I wrote it. By the mid 2000’s it was almost impossible to get any kind of publisher to read a book from a cold contact, and after several frustrating (and time consuming) attempts I gave up in disgust. Five years ago I chanced to meet someone I had known earlier who was the co-founder of a small independent press and lo, she wanted to print it. So it lives. I had decided long ago that I would wait as long as it took to find someone who would want to work with me without trying to change my stories. And I waited a long time! All those years of working gave me myriad strange, funny, and traumatic experiences, and a perspective I couldn’t have gotten any other way. Is that a good thing? I really don’t know, but there’s certainly no use worrying about it now!

    I have always thought that a Universal Basic Income was the most intelligent idea any governmental type has ever had. To be able to create without worrying about huge acclaim or acceptance would gift the world a flood of never-considered wonders to go along with the flood of nonsense we already have. I hope that, at least in my children’s lifetime, it happens.

    Would it be gauche of me to post a link to my novels? I enjoyed the story of your journey!

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