Earning in the negative amounts seems ridiculous; yet on paper that is what I managed to do last year -- by great amounts (with "great" referring more to my scale of living than yours; I doubt it would seem great to you). The goal of the free lance writer is to earn enough in a year to need to pay taxes -- and, with any luck, to earn enough in the following year to pay those taxes.
If you have grown up on stories of writers who make two dollars their first year of writing, two hundred in their second, and then two zillion in every year afterward, it may seem a bit ridiculous, too, that a writer may still, later in life, be falling well short of the simple goal of earning enough to pay taxes -- i.e., to live on.
The story of free lance writers has been more of the struggle-to-ge-along nature than otherwise. That the ones earning living wages win not only the money but attention, too, is natural. What the public fails to hear about is the quietness of the news of all those years for all those writers when the wells are a bit dry.
Not speaking of the creative wells, of course.
And the irony is that those years are taxing that go Federally untaxed.