A collective voice for literature and languages in Scotland

RSL report – A Room of My Own

The Royal Society of Literature has revealed the findings of its latest report on what writers need to work today – A Room of My Own. Below is a summary.

The support a writer needs:

Ninety years after Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Room of One’s Own’, a room to write from and money are still important to sustaining a career in writing. However, peer support and emotional support are now seen as significant to more writers than financial support.

The support a writer receives:

The vast majority of writers do not earn the income that Virginia Woolf argued a writer needs £500 a year, equivalent to just over £30,000 in 2019. The majority of writer respondents earned below £10,000 from their writing in 2018.

  • 5% of writers earned over £30,000 from their writing in 2018

Only a small minority of writers are able to support themselves through their writing income alone. A writer is almost three times as likely to earn over £30,000 from work outside writing than in it.

  • 10% of writers do not have jobs or any other form of financial support beyond their writing
  • 5% of writers earn over £30,000 from writing; 14% earn the same outside writing

Writing is a career in which opportunities are currently far greater for those from privileged backgrounds. Pay gaps in relation to social class identity, gender identity, ethnicity and geographic region are greater in a writing career than in employment outside it.

  • Social class identity: 25% of all respondents identified as working class, but they make up only 11% of the highest earners from writing (earning over £30,000 from writing in 2018)
  • Ethnicity: 13% of all respondents identified as being from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, but are only 9% of the highest earners from writing
  • Gender: 72% of all respondents identified as female, but they made up 57% of the highest earners from writing; in comparison, respondents identifying as male made up 25% of overall respondents and 41% of those with the highest incomes from writing
  • Geographic region: 66% of the highest earners from writing lived in London or the South of England

Challenges:

  • 68% found a lack of financial income or expectation of it in the future a challenge to their early writing life.
  • 67% identified lack of time to write as a challenge.
  • 54% identified lack of confidence in their ability as a challenge.
  • 53% identified lack of information about financial support available to them as a challenge.

The words that sustain a writer:

Asked for the piece of advice that encourages them to pursue a career in writing, the most common were to persist through rejection, and that their voices are important.

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June 20, 2019

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