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By Johannes Helmold

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write and have other carrierWhen people hear me calling myself a writer, they usually ask me whether writing is the only thing I do to earn money. As far as I understand, people tend to think of writers as people who can live solely on writing. Guess what answer I give them?

“Unfortunately, since I ain’t Stephen King, I do a bunch of other stuff to sustain myself.”

Yep, it’s not as romantic as I’d like it to be. When I was a kid (and a teen) I dreamed of becoming a Real Writer—you know, a dude who sits at his typewriter 25 hours a day, becomes famous, and spends the rest of his life resting on laurels and enjoying literary recognition in bohemian ways.

I honestly tried living a life like this, but reality has sorted things out in its own way; to sustain myself, I had to find a job—fortunately, it’s connected to writing. But anyways, what I am trying to say here is that being a writer and working in an office are compatible.

I know creative people who are like, “Oh, I wish I was a writer, but it’s impossible—I’m an accountant.” And I know a lawyer who writes great poems and sings in his own band. He is not as popular as Bono, but his band has an audience and a number of pubs where he is welcome to sing. This means that it does not matter what you call yourself, or what you do; unless you have the time and desire for creativity, you are creative.

You are a writer if you work as a janitor who writes shorts stories when not on shift. You are a writer if your main job is doing surgery, but you write haiku about the transience of life between operations. You are a writer if you drive huge freight liners across the US, and write poems while dining at cheap drive-ins. You are a writer even if you are an editor, though these two professions are opposite to one another (haha, that’s my case).

What I am trying to say is that being a writer is a condition of the mind, not some formal “profession” or occupation you take up. Franz Kafka, Herman Melville, Jack London, William Burroughs, Ken Kesey, John Steinbeck, and many other famous writers used to have rather mundane professions. You can make your own conclusions now.

The first criteria is whether you want to be a writer; the second one is how good you are at writing. Everything else follows.

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