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Sunday, December 25, 2011

How Most Writers End Up

We like to think famous writers have some sense of how they will eventually end up. That becoming rich and famous is a continuing movement that puts writers into mansions with retirement funds or a least a fat bank account. But the truth is most writers end up broke at the end of their life with their works out of print or they just plain fall into obscurity. Fitzgerald is a famous writer that comes to mind who ended up with his work out of print and in debt. He died with barely enough money to bury him.

Another write is Paul Nelson who wrote for Rolling Stone and was one of the premier music scribes of the rock and roll world of the seventies. A recent review (today) in the NY Times of a book on his life: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson by Ken Avery chronicled his life from the high times of the seventies to his fall in the eighties and nineties. What struck me was a quote that said "it was terrible that Avery had ended up as a clerk in a video store at the end of his life and died sick and broke The quote went on to say here was the best  writer of his time being a clerk in a video store.

What most people don't understand is that writers have very little control over what happens to them and what happens is that they lose the ability to make money. Broke. Most writers end up broke if they ever rose above this baseline in the first place. And what follows this is illness and obscurity, and meaningless jobs to just make ends being a clerk in a video store. The truth is there are brilliant writers all over the world being clerks in a stores and working as starving real estate agents, janitors, waiters. And they do this until they die. 

That's how most writers begin and that's how most writers end up. A hard truth.

Books by William Hazelgrove