One of my favorite writers, Anthony Powell, once said that the public would be amazed if it knew how little money writers made -- he said it more elegantly. Something like,
"I was at the stage of life when one has written two novels...." and then something elegant about what people thought he made and that his actual income from writing was about 100 pounds a year!
This was in the 1920s.
Jane Austen wrote that "People are more inclined to borrow than to buy my books."
It's not only now that most writers aren't millionaires, to put it mildly. I think that probably the only people who make a living from writing (just writing, not doing school visits) are the people whose books are in airport bookstores....everyone else has savings, a working partner, or another source of income.
I'm in the first AND third category, though am about to be only in the third. I stave off worry by reasoning that I have ALWAYS been able to make money when I needed it. A fortune teller once told me when I was 25 that I would never really need to worry about money because when I needed it "money would just sort of come." So far, this has been true for me--the other day I was starting to get a little panicky and then a friend called and offered me a freelance job that will pay the April rent.
But not everyone is comfortable living with this kind of insecurity; of course I'm not always comfortable with it either but (for me) it's better than the alternative: a job that makes me feel like I'm in jail. I had one of those once - I worked in one of those big office buildings where the windows don't open and the lights are fluorescent and you sit in a grey cube. When I started there I had a big office with a window but was rapidly demoted when the wild man who had hired me --and loved my work -- was fired.
On NPR once they had a story about how all the Neanderthal bones that people had found had fractures in many places, and they concluded from this that early man (and woman) lived on the edge. Maybe artists are just more at home on the edge than in offices.