re: Can you afford to be a writer?

Can you afford to be a writer?” by Deborah Dundas (Toronto Star)

IMHO, even if the book market in Canada wasn’t as small as it was, the average writer in Canada would still be paid less than the minimal wage because even in Britain and the US the average writer is also paid beneath the minimum (see: Alison Flood’s “Authors’ incomes collapse to ‘abject’ levels“).

Then again, it could be argued that the average English language writer simply doesn’t write enough.

My two favourite living Canadian writers are Barbara Gowdy and Miriam Toews. Both are popular award-winning novelists. However neither publishes that much.

Toews, a hilarious and insightful writer, has only published a full-length novel on average of every 2–3 years. Gowdy, meanwhile, hasn’t published a novel since 2007. And before The English Patient was published, Michael Ondaatje, then an established poet and two-time novelist, spent nearly twenty years teaching English at York University. Of those decades, 16 of those years separate Ondaatje’s  first book and his third, the one that made him internationally famous.

On the other hand, many top tier writers wrote constantly during their career. Mordecai Richler wrote constantly: novels, short stories, essays, book reviews, he even had columns in both The Gazette and The National Post. And Richler did this though his novels and children’s stories were annual bestsellers and were adapted to film. Meanwhile Yukio Mishima, the most successful Japanese writer of his time and a man of Balzacian energy, published two full-length novels, 4–12 short stories, a full-length play, several one act plays, essays, newspaper articles, and gave lectures from his twenties to his forties, every year.