In two senses at least the modern struggling writers have an advantage over Martin Eden - one, we generally don't have to choose between buying either food or postal stamps, as most places these days accept e-queries (on principle, I refuse to contact those who don't. Printing out and mailing manuscripts, especially overseas, is a great deal of trouble, and expecting writers to go through this - especially considering that most of us submit to multiple agencies - is simply unfair and inconsiderate. OK, end of rant); and two, if we query and re-query and run out of places to submit our work to, it's always possible to give one's book a chance by going the indie route. The chance of considerable success isn't very high, that's true, but at least there is still an option for those entrepreneurial authors who are willing to work hard at book promotion and networking.
Nevertheless, I do feel a deep sense of kinship with Martin Eden in the way of never having enough time for everything I want to do. Being in charge of three kids, a house, a garden and a bunch of animals is more than a full-time job, so my writing cuts into stuff like recreation, spending time with friends, showers and sleep. Many of my friends are wondering whether I'm still alive and I can't remember the last time I just put up my feet, relaxed and saw a movie.
In a recent forum discussion, author Michael Sullivan told he spends "only" 3-4 hours a day writing and editing (this not counting time spent on work-related emails, book promotion, etc). Well, all I can say is Wow! If I have two hours a day together for everything - writing, editing, formatting, querying, networking - I consider myself lucky. And usually those two hours are spread out in snippets throughout the day.
Another thing is Eden's motivations. Martin Eden tries to make a living writing so he can give his adored Ruth the future she, in his opinion, deserves. I am trying to earn money by my writing so I can supplement my family's income while still being home for my children (anything more would be fantastic, of course, but for now this modest goal is what I'm striving for). This was what prompted me to try and go public with my work, after many years of accumulating manuscripts in a drawer.
All in all, I feel lucky to be living at a time when nobody can tell me I'm not allowed to be an author. Today, anyone's books can see light. Does this mean every published book is a good book? No; does this mean every indie book is a success? Again, no. But there is chance and hope for everyone, and that's worth a million.