A lot of people who want to become professional writers think that once you become a writer, you don’t have any problems. But any writer knows that we really do have our own set of problems. Becoming a full-time writer doesn’t solve all of your problems, you just trade up for new ones.
Who knew that those whining customers you took care of at McDonald's as a teen would grow up to be whining readers who leave negative reviews on Amazon?
But sometimes you get whole new problems. For example in your current day job, maybe one of your problems is that you have to worry about office politics. You might have a coworker trying to sabotage your career, or overzealous bosses breathing down your neck.
As a writer, I get to work alone. Blissfully alone. I don’t have office politics. I’ve written on beaches in Mexico and mountains in Tasmania. So what is the trade off? The truth is, that I get a new problem: I’m always at the office. As a writer I don’t have set work hours. I wake up at 3:00 A.M. with an idea for a scene, and I go to work. Sometimes I get pretty tired of being “stuck in the house” day after day, and like a hamster, I just want to be let out of my cage.
If you’re working for someone else, the chances are that you aren’t getting paid very much.
As a writer, I’m self-employed. That means that my income can fluctuate wildly. I might turn in a novel and get paid nine months later. I may get big pay checks from my publisher about twice a year. So as an author, you need to learn to budget wisely. When you’re doing well, invest your money wisely. If times are lean, learn to be frugal.
Can I be honest about something? A lot of people have unrealistic expectations about how much authors make. One big problem that you will have is that there will be people who will try to defraud you—quite often. Don’t listen to investments schemes, even from people you’ve known for and trusted for years. If a friend asks you to invest, remember David Farland’s mantra: “If you’re a writer, the wisest investment that you can make is to invest in yourself.” The very best investment that you can make might be to spend some money taking a trip to do some research, or buying a new computer, or taking a writing retreat.
When it comes to money, one thing that you learn rather quickly in life is that financial security is an illusion. I know many people who have kept high-paying jobs rather than risk becoming a professional writer. Do you know what? Every single person that I have known for twenty years has been laid off of his or her high-paying job.
Yes, you’ll have economic reversals as a writer. I have one friend who wrote a book and had it rejected 200 times before it sold—and became a New York Times bestseller. Another writer lost his contract with a major publisher but kept on writing—and tripled his income within the year.
The truth is that if you’re an author, you are taking significant financial risks, but if you do well, you also get all of the rewards.
So writing brings its own set of problems. When you are a writer, you don’t get to pick and choose what jobs you like to do. You don’t get to say, “I hate outlining novels,” or “I hate promoting books,” or “I hate giving television interviews.” You need to master a lot of skills.
A few years ago, I was in a panel where bestselling author Scott Westerfield pointed out that when you are about halfway through a novel, most writers find that they need to stop and re-work it. They’ve made some changes to the plot as they wrote, and now the novel’s ending needs to be revised. Most authors when they reach that point, will sit around and ponder it over a period of a few weeks, but he said, “I realized one day that the sooner I got that re-plotted, the less time I would waste.” So he would jump into the task and finish the new outline in a couple of days. That’s a great attitude to have with any aspect of writing that gives you trouble: jump in, master the skill, get the job done well. That’s the mark of a true professional.
No matter what career you take up, you will have challenges that you will need to face and skills that you will develop.
Ultimately, the only reason to become a writer is because you love doing it.
I’m reminded of the words of Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to go to work a day in your life.”
Coming just in time for Nanowrimo, a new kind of writing workshop!
Here we focus on motivation, overcoming writers' blocks, and meeting the challenges of becoming a professional writer.
Over the years I've known many fine writers who quit progressing, who don't seem to have the willpower to move to the next level. In the Writer's Peak, our goal is to make that a thing of the past by using neuro-linguistic programming to help you write more swiftly and effortlessly than ever before.
1600 N. Freedom Blvd
Provo, UT 84064
Friday and Saturday, November 3rd and 4th
Zombies Need Brains Kickstarter
This project will fund THREE science fiction and fantasy anthologies, titled THE RAZOR'S EDGE, GUILDS AND GLAIVES, and SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR, containing approximately 14 all-original (no reprint) short stories each from established SF&F authors in the field (including me). The books will be edited by Patricia Bray & Joshua Palmatier (SECOND ROUND: A RETURN TO THE UR-BAR), S.C. Butler & Joshua Palmatier (GUILDS AND GLAIVES), and Troy Bucher & Joshua Palmatier (THE RAZOR'S EDGE).
See the Kickstarter here.
Salt Lake Comic Con
Next week I will be at Salt Lake Comic Con. View their schedule on their website.