Late last night I heard from a student who said coming to class made her feel better, that she sometimes felt so downtrodden because of the need for money--she's not yet making any money from her writing--and being among writers gave her hope.
Sometimes it seems all you have is hope. Hope can be the rope that stops you from falling.
In Pen on Fire I talk about working as a temp and how much I hated it. It was so time for me to make a living writing, yet it wasn't happening yet. I didn't want a career in the corporate world because that's just not what I wanted for my life. So I kept writing fiction, took classes in nonfiction, learned how to write scripts and other types of writing that could someday bring in cold hard cash, and I maintained hope--hope that it would happen someday.
Crossing over to freelancing took more energy and focus than I ever though I was capable of, but I had to break out of the 9-5 work mode...I just had to. I met a cable TV producer at the Irvine Fine Arts Center darkroom where I developed and printed black and white photos, and he gave me a job writing a documentary on the Orange County homeless situation. It paid peanuts. I took it.
I continued to temp during the day and at night worked on the documentary, sometimes staying up all night. With the eventual tape, I got freelance jobs writing corporate scrips. Then I learned about writing press releases and doing PR and got a few freelance gigs doing that.
It took a while for the income to pick up, but eventually it did. I didn't have connections. What I did have was perseverance. And hope. My students who begin to publish have those qualities, too. Without them, you might as well forget it.
If you're desperate to write for publication, articles are the way—esp. business and technical articles. Don't forget trade magazines. They pay well and need freelancers. They may not be as impressive as mainstream magazines, but they're a great way to start getting a freelancing income going and the editors are, for the more part, delightful to work with. They appreciate you.
Getting into public relations, too, as a freelancer, where you write press releases, can be your bread and butter for a while. For a long time before I started focusing on writing for magazines, I did PR, and found it quite lucrative. After a while, the PR writing itself--not the people I worked with--became boring. But it was great money while it lasted.
Yes, talent counts, but without hope and perseverance, talent means nothing. Don't dwell on how hard it is. Instead, write hard, learn hard, and make perseverance your middle name.