Received a message from a gent in his 40’s asking me for some fiscal numbers to help him decide if he should cash in his 401k (US retirement fund) to become a full-time writer for 3 years so he doesn’t regret not having fully committed himself to it before he gets too old.

Part of me just wants to type “NO” and send it, but that would be crass and awkward.

Everyone is different.
Everyone’s risk/reward threshold is different.
Everyone’s creative needs are different too.
If I had to sum up some advice in this situation, I’d say:
“Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.”

Dude, it’s exciting to imagine it all works out and you have a solid full-time writing income at the end of that 3-year journey, but plan for the exact opposite:
You just blew your retirement fund and have no career to show for it.
How does the future look?

Is fearing future financial disaster the motivation you need to create stories you claim you’ve wanted to do for the past 30 years? I don’t know you, but I’m not buying that.

The romanticised ideal of the inspired artist sacrificing everything as they cast themselves off a cliff waiting for destiny to kick in and save them is Hollywood-esque Survivor’s Fallacy Bullshit™.

Look at the corpses on the rocks below. Chances are that’s you.

On the one hand, I’m sort of thankful this guy is asking me, someone who still teaches at a college full-time while I write 3+ comics per month because I don’t want to financially hook myself when it comes to creative endeavours. When it comes to crazy comic dream sacrifice plays, I’m about as pragmatic as you can get. If I was a superhero, my name would probably be Schedule Guy. Asking me if you should expose your financial underbelly for the Arts is not going to go far.

Dude, I’m writing the Avengers and I still haven’t quit my day job.
Cash in your 401k? Fuck, no.

“If only I had time-“
Make time. Set an alarm and wake up an hour early or spend an hour each night before bed. Write.
Make it 2 hours on Saturdays. That’s 8 hours per week.

“If only I could dedicate myself-“
You can and it doesn’t have to be with the shadow of financial ruin looming over you.

“I’ve always wanted to-“
Cool. Do it. Make a thing. Finish it.
Learn from it. Do it again. Keep doing it.

You can’t control how people react to the work or where it ends up taking you, but you can control your ability to do it or not. That’s the baseline.

Fully committing” to a creative pursuit means doing it despite other distractions in your life, not futilely trying to create a fantasy where you’re insulated from real world concerns while your future stability disintegrates.

(-Built this post from a Twitter thread because it seems like the kind of thing I’ll want to point to at a later date and because Storify is going bye-bye in the near future-)

  1. This is as near to perfect advice as it could get.

  2. Thank you for this!

    Lately I’ve been asking myself if it is truly necessary to “risk everything you have incluiding your health” to do what you love, because in some way… it doesn’t really seem to be “that good” being that way.

    Seeing your opinion as a professional gives me a bit of relief. I mean, knowing that it is possible to do this without having to throw away your life as it is now brings a lot of relief.

    So again, thank you for your words!

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