Kurt Vonnegut was once asked about the jobs he did to support himself while trying to do the kind of writing he wanted to do. He gave a sharp response that challenges some of the more glamorous ideas people have about their calling.

Interviewer: You have been a public relations man and an advertising man. Was this painful? I mean - did you feel your talent was being wasted?

Kurt Vonnegut: No. That’s romance - that work of that sort damages a writer’s soul. At Iowa, Dick Yates and I used to give a lecture each year on the writer and the free enterprise system. The students hated it. We would talk about all the hack jobs writer could take in case they found themselves starving to death, or in case they wanted to accumulate enough capital to finance the writing of a book.

Since publishers aren’t putting money into first novels any more, and since the magazines have died, and since television isn’t buying from young freelancers any more, and since the foundations give grants only to old poops like me, young writers are going to have to support themselves as shameless hacks. Otherwise, we are soon going to find ourselves without a contemporary literature. There is only one genuinely ghastly thing hack jobs do to writers, and that is to waste their precious time.

From Conversations with Kurt Vonnegut