It's hard to say what makes a professional writer. One can go by the traditional definition created by various writers organizations which state things such as a certain number of short story sales at a certain level of pay. For some reason, many of them claim that five cents per word is the cut-off point to be considered a pro sale. And further state that one needs three such sales of that level (or greater) to be considered a professional writer.
If so, I achieved that relatively soon after deciding to tackle the writing business in a serious manner. But it took many years before I earned any money at all that made a difference in the household budget. And to date the most I've ever made from writing was less than any of my regular day jobs.
And that's the thing--all of my professional life as a writer I have had to hold down a regular job in addition to selling my fiction. I've sold short stories, comic book scripts, reviews, and novels. And I've never been able to quit whatever paying job I have held so that I could write full time. It's just never been in the cards.
Generally, I've never had a hard time finding the leisure moments to work my second job of crafting fiction. I could always come home, shower, eat a meal, and then tackle the day's quota of words. But now I'm getting old. I'll be 55 soon, and I have to admit that's old for a laborer. And that's what I do to pay for the roof over our heads and the food on our table and the clothes on our backs--I work as a physical laborer.
And I ain't a kid any more. In earlier times I could shrug off the fatigue and get cracking on my short stories and comic scripts and novels. Now I find it more and more difficult to do that when I get home. My job is harder and my body is slowing down. My joints ache and my muscles hurt and by Jove I'm just freaking bushed when I get home. These days, I'm lucky if I can kick in a few hundred words before my eyelids want to close for the night and I have to head off to bed.
Oh, well. It's never been an easy thing to do. Many times I wanted to give up, but I just kept plugging along. It's a tiring, private task, but I haven't given in to the bad guys yet.
Where's my coffee cup?