I AM *this* close to finishing my new memoir, it has an Amazon page and everything.

Newborn: Running Away, Breaking with the Past, Building a New Family will be my fifth book since I started writing at 29. I've had the same publisher for 10 years, Chatto and Windus which is part of Penguin Random House, the same literary agent and the same editor for the duration of my career.

When I finally finished this book, after a year of not insignificant challenges including pandemic, pregnancy, a war in a neighbouring country, getting a rare 1 in 400,000 lifelong illness and emigrating from Prague back to Scotland, I wasn't sure if I would keep writing for publication.

In my role as a lecturer and as a writing mentor one of the most complicated questions I often have to answer to writers just starting out is, ‘Should I be doing this? How will I make a living? What are my long term prospects?’ And the truth is these are important questions to ask and the answers aren't always easy to hear.

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I can only recommend that you pursue making a living as a writer if you're genuinely passionate about the writing itself. Not because you think it will make you famous, or stick it to your old English teacher, certainly not because you think it will make you rich.

The meat of a professional author’s day is getting up by yourself in your pyjamas and listening to the voices in your head. You work on projects for months sometimes, as is the case with my recent book, even years just with that story and no external validation to let you know it’s a worthwhile endeavour for anyone but you.

And how will you make money? It’s a complicated question. Employment specialist Indeed suggests an author's writing earnings are around £39,413. Oh, reader, how I laughed when I saw this figure. A more accurate figure is one set by the Society of Authors which states the average author earns £10,500 and that’s bearing in mind that averaging includes mega earners, those with alleged private pools and solid gold shoes, like Ian Rankin and JK Rowling.

In reality, most authors, like me, have patchwork careers. If you are lucky these multiple jobs overlap and compliment each other. I teach, I write for magazines and newspapers, I sing for my supper at festivals and on judging panels. Of course, there are writers who are supported by their spouses or come from family money but whether that improves or impedes your writing and career is perhaps a column for another time.

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As for long term prospects, I can only give you my perspective. I have been, it's fair to say, fairly successful in my career as a writer. I've been nominated for prizes. I've even won some. My last book was a bestseller and had good reviews as did both my previous novels.

But you're only as good as your last book. Short of being a Booker Prize winner or having your book made into a smash HBO series, I can tell you, from watching highs and lows and then highs again of my peers, that absolutely anything can happen. As they say in Project Runway, ‘One day you’re in, the next you’re out’. Writing is a job for life but being published, being read, those are a lottery you buy a ticket for with every book you write.

My advice is usually, if you want to be a happy writer, and I prize happiness above all other things, you have to be willing to accept that one day you might neither be published nor widely read and know that you will keep writing anyway because that was always the reward.

Indeed, one of the reasons why I chose to write when I might have channelled my efforts into art, film or theatre was because I grew up with nothing and I knew that writing could never be taken away from me. I needed no one and nothing but a pen and paper and my own mind.

For all of this instability, it is an enormous privilege to be a writer. Imagine people giving their hard earned money and hearts and heads to you so that you can speak to them? Imagine doing that especially if, like me, you come from a marginalised part of society that is rarely given a voice. Imagine travelling the world to Paris, Rome, Berlin, Seoul, Tbilisi and reading your work to people there.

Imagine standing in your local bookshop and signing your books knowing that, implausibly, someone will be excited by your signature with its daft doodle of boobs above it. Imagine walking into your old library, the one that saved your life when you were a kid right on the edge, and seeing your book on the shelves. Imagine all of your primary school teachers coming to see you speak at a book festival on your 39th birthday, each hugging you afterwards and telling you they're proud of you. You could wish for nothing more.

Being a writer isn't a walk in the park. And it isn't just writing, there's TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, press interviews, live radio, festival appearances, commissioned articles and a whole industry where it’s wise to keep up with trends. Besides this, as with any business, there are inequalities to try and stand against, doors to open, chairs to pull to the table and glass ceilings to smash. That’s all part of the job of being a writer. At least it is for me.

But really, writing is the thing. So, with the emerging writers that I work with, when they ask those questions I say to them finally, ‘Would you keep writing for writing’s sake? Do you find joy in having written and told your story? Would it be OK if no one ever read your work? If there was no money or fame or overseas book tours or pictures in the press? Would you always keep writing, not for a paycheck or praise or even someone's time?’ If they answer yes, the likelihood is that they too could be a happy writer.