The readily available evidence indicates that writing fiction for a living is becoming less of an option for those of us with expensive tastes such as food and shelter. The raw numbers can be seen here: Book Advances, Royalty Checks, and Making a Living as a Writer, by Adriann Ranta. It looks easier to win a lottery jackpot with an expired ticket. Some few will always be able to make it happen, of course, but they will increasingly be the exceptions to the rule.

Where does this lead us? Directly to Working the Double Shift, by Emily St. John Mandel. She writes about treating writing as a second job, which makes sense to me. It’s not as glamorous, but it’s practical in terms of money and perhaps in terms of finding things and people to write about, or in letting our subconscious work on a story while we earn the house payment.

Finally, Lapham’s Quarterly assures us that even great writers have held day jobs, so we need not feel badly about the necessity ourselves. (From the world of science, a reminder that Albert Einstein was working in a Swiss patent office when he wrote his groundbreaking papers on light quanta, Brownian motion, and special relativity. Perhaps a mind-numbing job for part of the day can lead to a burst of creativity at other times.)