I saw that a writer I know has just published her 3rd (or is it her 4th?) novel, and is getting some great publicity. She started as a short story writer, and followed the well worn path to novelist. A large part of me is genuinely delighted for her, and a small part thinks, what would have happened if I'd done that too? I know several full time writers, and most of them have earned very little money, and worked and struggled to get the success they've had. I've been in a very different position, where I've been lucky enough to work in a well paid industry, and the writing has been a hobby rather than a career. I actually still work on storytelling in my career, helping companies on their narrative structure for presentations, for example, - which is highly rewarding. I would be crazy to give up a well paid and enjoyable job to work full time as a (poorly paid) writer.
Recently, I finished reading the biography of Terry Nation - the man who invented the Daleks (along with Blake's 7, Survivors, and many more of the TV staples of the late 60's and 70's). It was a fascinating read - especially if you remembered those programmes - about a creative man, with limitations and dreams. He worked long and hard, had several close misses (before and after his success), and was made wealthy by a strange combination of luck, hard work, and good timing. Working in a collaborative medium like TV, he never quite had full control of his creations, and that worked in his favour many times, but was also profoundly frustrating. Imagine seeing a story you had developed being taken off in what you viewed as the wrong direction, with characters that you had developed doing and saying things that were 'out of character' from your perspective, and yet earning money for this - although the critics might then complain about the same things you were upset about, and blame you!
By the end of the book, I'd come to the conclusion that the best stories typically came from desperation. When Terry Nation had to pitch an idea on the spot, or when he had to write a pilot script in a few days, those were the stories that became the biggest hits. It's a story that emerges many times about famous books (J K Rowling working in a cafe because her house was too cold, Ray Bradbury hammering away at a typewriter on Fahrenheit 451 because his dollar in the coin-operated machine only lasted an hour), and while a part of me thinks that this is just another tale to make the book seem even more miraculous - we all love a good story - there is surely a grain of truth here. The best writing happens because you have to do it, because you need the money. Which brings me to the conclusion that perhaps given the choice, I would pick a happy healthy life, and moderate writing success over a desperate struggle that (may) produce a fabulous novel.