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
- 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.