I don’t make enough money from writing to deduct writing expenses. But I still have them, so I look forward to the day when I might, in fact, be able to balance them against what I’ve earned. My accountant was incredulous when I suggested this possibility. Not incredulous about my ability to make money writing. That’s reserved for my family and friends. But incredulous that it might cost anything to be a writer. After all, isn’t all you need paper and pens?
Well, no. Okay, maybe. I have plenty of writing related expenses and we’re not even talking about the infamous “home office” deduction that we are warned will only trigger an audit.
The first one I mentioned to my accountant was the cost of a professional head shot. I got mine done a few years ago, when a local photographer gave my chapter of Sisters in Crime a one day “author’s special” package. Saved me a bundle. I didn’t have to do it, I could have gotten some friend to take a snapshot in the back yard with my cat.
Then there’s the cost of professional writer magazines, craft books, classes, seminars, conferences, and, once, for professional coaching when I was in a slump. Add in the membership dues for professional organizations I belong to. There are books, anthologies and magazines that I buy because they are ones I aspire to submit to. Yes, I could get some of these from the local library or even online. But I’d rather own them so I can take my time with them. Finally, (or maybe not, maybe I’ve forgotten something) there’s the high and ongoing cost of printer ink, plus other office supplies and, vitally, an internet connection. At least we’re not stuck with postage, mailing envelopes and SASEs like the old days. I’ve also paid for a cover designer and a formatter for online versions of my work. If all goes well, someday I’ll need a professional editor before I send my proposals off to agents or publishers. And also, there the cost of a domain name if you have a web site, and, if you have internet, some virus protection software.
Can you be a writer without spending all this money? Of course. Can you cut costs by using the library’s internet, books, magazines? Sure. Can you team up with another writer to share subscriptions and other resources? I guess you could. Can you do it all with just pen and paper? Many people have. Or so we think. Just butt-in-chair daily output. While that part is essential, I’d rather have all the other supports and incentives, the camaraderie of groups, the tips and critiques, the ability to send off a manuscript at midnight, during a thunderstorm, or on a holiday. On the other hand, will spending one dime make me a better, more productive, or a more marketable writer? No. Only time and work and study will do that. The commitment to those necessities is the one quality that only I can provide. There’s a cost to that as well. I’ll talk about that some other time.