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Monday, 11 August 2014

'No one but a blockhead...'

George Bernard Shaw said that ‘if you don’t write for publication, there is little point in writing at all.’ In as many words he was saying what Samuel Johnson said a long time earlier - that ‘no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.’

Neither is strictly true, of course. Writing can be therapy and help through catharsis. You can write for any number of reasons. But if you’re going to take your writing seriously and you want your words to be read and enjoyed, you need to persevere and learn, writing virtually every day. Generally, the more you write, the better you become.

Certainly, it would seem that the majority of writers don’t do it to pay the bills or get rich.


This item was gleaned from Writers’ News, September 2014.

            The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) has just published the results of their first survey of authors’ earnings since the last one in 2005. Almost 2,500 authors were questioned and the results fond that the median income for professional writers in 2013 was £11,000.

            If you adjust that for inflation, in real terms that represents a fall of 29% since the 2005 survey.

            Indeed, only 11.5% of professional authors in the sample made their living just from writing. In 2005, it was 40%.

            The interpretation is that there has been a decline in both author incomes and in the numbers of those writing full time. The Chief Executive of ALCS regarded the data as shocking.

            The ALCS summary is available at

Of course, as with any survey, it depends on the sample questioned. The conclusions may not be accurate, since there may be many writers who are not in ALCS. Did the entire sample questioned respond? Even so, experience suggests that those who can live well from their writing are relatively few indeed.

But we must till write. Regardless.

Because we want to be read. Because we are driven to write.

Take heart, and keep writing!


Richard Sutton said...

It's a very good thing that penury is considered to go hand in hand with literary cred. I'm already well on my way to the first, so I will persevere, hoping for the latter as well. After all, we really don;t have a choice, do we?

Nik said...

I suppose we could choose not to write, Richard - no, that's unthinkable!