About a year ago, I was talking with a friend about dreams. His dream, he told me, was to become a well-known singer/performer. He even informed that he intended to get his start on The X Factor. He was quite serious about pursuing his dream, as he practiced his craft often and had a plan to get it started.
Yet he was realistic. He knew that there was a slim chance he could succeed as a singer, that it wasn’t always possible to fulfill your dreams. So he had what he called a “back-up dream,” another, easier to obtain dream that he could fall back on in case his singing career didn’t quite take off.
I have no idea how my friend is doing, as I haven’t spoken with him since. But the idea of a back-up dream stuck with me and has recently come to mind as I pursue my own dream of becoming a professional writer who makes a living off his work.
I’m not naïve. I know that the publishing industry is highly competitive and tough to break into. Even with the ease of self-publishing, many writers still fail to make enough money to make ends meet. The vast majority of them have some other kind of job to help pay the bills and support their families, which is completely understandable. Even the best writers still sometimes have a hard time making as much money as they’d like.
What does this say for me, a basically newbie writer who has not sold even one novel?
It means the chances of me making enough money to live off of are slim. Slim, but not impossible. It means I will probably need to find another way to support myself, another career path that will pay more or at least enough to pay the bills. Unless I become the next breakout author — which, let’s face it, isn’t very likely, no matter how good I may be at writing — I will need to investigate other options to support my writing.
The only other career paths I’ve seriously considered, aside from writing, are teaching and pastoring. Of the two, teaching is the only one I could realistically see myself doing, as I’ve been told I could be a good teacher. I could be an English or creative writing teacher, as I love to talk about writing and help other people improve their craft.
I haven’t taken any concrete steps toward becoming a teacher yet, though. Mostly this is because I want to see how well I do in the publishing industry first, but another part of me feels that accepting any other job or career path other than writing — even if it is one related to writing or is supposed to support my writing — would somehow make me less of a writer, even though far better writers than me have managed to hold down another job in addition to their writing.
So I suppose you could say that my back-up dream is teaching. In the event I fail to make any serious money off my books, I think I’d go get my teaching degree. I know teachers don’t always make a lot of money, either, but at least they can usually count on a regular paycheck, unlike writers, who normally can’t (although self-publishing is quickly changing that, I think).
What is your dream? Do you have a back-up dream? If so, what is it? Is it more realistic than your main dream?