A writing career is like surfing. There’s an overabundance of metaphors for both of these, but hear me out.
When you start trying to write professionally later in life you have to find a job that you can stomach five days a week to pay your mortgage, childcare, or whatever real expenses you have in the world. This job, like any, will have challenges and rewards. You’ll need to deal with colleagues and stress and deadlines. Finding that job, and keeping it, is less than half of the equation, though, since what you want in life is to get paid to write. It’s your foundation, your playing field. If you were sitting on a fiberglass board approximately 100 yards off some beach, it would be the lineup, or outside, the area just past the impact zone, where waves are breaking.
In the lineup, a surfer has to stay in position to catch waves, despite turbulence in the water, variation in the location and direction of waves, other surfers, and the physical exertion of paddling through the impact zone repeatedly. An instinctive understanding of waves--where they go, how they act--is critical to even starting to learn the sport. For this reason, surfing is sometimes compared to snowboarding on a moving mountain.
When you find stability in a job you’ll have adequate income and the ability to get work done, with enough creative energy and time left in the day or week to go home and write. Finding this composure at work is a daunting task however. You must break through the barrier of finding a job, of course, and then you have to learn to stay in position. It has to be at least tolerable, pay the bills, and allow enough flex for you to leave on time more often than not.
As with surfing, the goal is to establish in a surging, shifting environment a launch pad for your real practice--at its essence a rush of creative freedom.