Are you a survival writer?

Over the years I've noticed that people tend to fall into one of three camps when it comes to writing: they're either everyday writers, survival writers, or fringe writers. What's the difference? Read on:

Everyday writers

These people live to write. They love sitting down in front of a blank screen, they love to play with words, they geek out over grammar and punctuation. Usually you find them in careers that make good use of their enthusiasm for writing. They're the novelists, the screenwriters, the poets, the copywriters. And if it's not their main career, it's an important pastime. They write because they're compelled to write.


Survival writers

This group writes because it's required. Their primary calling is elsewhere: clinical research, the non-profit sector, the arts, and so on. Whether it's a funding proposal, a journal article, a professional report, or some other project, writing is essential to the success of the person or the organization.

They write to keep the lights on. They write to spread evidence and to change the way things are done. They write in stolen moments, squeezing it in between the eleventy billion other things on their plate that day. Some of them may really enjoy writing, but they find it difficult to carve out the time to do it. They have to do it, whether they like it or not.


Fringe writers

This category is still a bit fuzzy for me, but it fills the gap between everyday writers and survival writers.

These are the people with day jobs that involve a lot of writing, but their primary calling is something else. Think about lawyers or social science researchers, for example. They signed up for careers with a hefty writing component, but writing ends up supporting the intellectual work they do, rather than being the primary intellectual or creative activity.

I don't have much to offer an everyday writer. Keep on with your bad self. And send me a copy of your book (autographed, please)!

Ditto for fringe writers. You got this.

But a survival writer? Hoo-boy! (Rubs hands together with glee) YOU'RE MY FAVOURITE.

First of all, BRAVO. You've found the thing you're called to do, and you're surprised—and maybe a bit discouraged— that you can't just do that thing all the damn time. You recognize that in order to do what you really love to do, you need to spend a good chunk of time writing.

So how do you know if you're a survival writer? 

  1. You spend the bulk of your day doing something other than writing (although there may be periods of time where writing is your primary activity).
  2. Writing grant proposals/responding to RFPs is necessary to bring in funds to sustain your organization.
  3. Publishing articles and/or getting grants is essential for your career advancement.

I'll be writing a lot more about the challenges facing survival writers. I'll focus on what you can do to mitigate some of the most difficult aspects of survival writing. I'll pass on every trick I know to make it easier for you. And heck, I might even be able to make it fun. (Challenge? Accepted!)

Are you a survival writer? Let me know in the comments! (PS. I LOVE YOU and I'm here to help)

Sarah xx