Part of the fun of returning to this website– and going through my old blog posts– is seeing how much has changed over the last five years. And how much hasn’t. Exactly five years ago today, I wrote about writing as a career in “It’s a Horrible Career. No, Really.” Much of this post rings true even today. After almost four years of being a published author, after seeing success in both the free and paid markets, and after many pitfalls and small triumphs, I can still feel those words I wrote as if it were yesterday.
The stuff that hasn’t changed? Being a writer is isolating. But social media? It rocks. I’ve met dozens of incredible people along this journey, most of which are on the same journey that I am. The sucky part of social media? Literally all of my friends, sans Baby Sister, live far away, so social media is how we keep in touch. For obvious reasons, this is a distraction. But when I’m working? In hardcore deadline mode? I’m all alone, unless you count the fictional people taking up space inside my head.
The stuff that’s changed? I’m still working full-time, only now, writing is my full-time job. I ditched out on school for a few years, but recently went back. The jury’s out on whether or not I’m going to stick with it this time. I used to live in Northern California (close to my hometown), but now I live in SW Illinois. The move always was, and still is, temporary. But it’s necessary, and I’ll get into that at a later date.
Writing is still strenuous, and sometimes, tedious even. Choosing a point of view or making sure the final draft is clean and error-free? Not even the things I stress about now. In the last five years, I’ve found my groove, and like to write in first person, present tense. Final drafts will always have errors, even when you do your best to avoid it. Only now, I rely on a skilled editor to ensure my MSS is clean. I still need advice– we all need advice at times. Sometimes, we need daily encouragement. Thankfully, I have great friends who get it, because they’re in the same boat. I’m still just a writer, and not a genius, but I do have a few years under my belt, so I’m not exactly green anymore. When I wrote the original post, I was unpublished. I hadn’t even finished a single novel yet. I’d barely heard of self-publishing and wasn’t sure what it was all about or if you could make a career out of it. Now? Now, I’ve written and published 11 novels, one novella, and a novelette. I think me from 2011 would be impressed. Me from 2016? Meh.
So here’s the nitty gritty about why sometimes, this career sucks. Five years ago, I was bemoaning writing books. Now, I’m bemoaning the actual art of writing and practice of publishing. Because, they are, two very different animals. Yes, writing is hard. And yes, books that tell you how awful writing is as a career suck.
They’re also kind of right. I thought I had a small clue about how difficult writing is. And actually, I did have a good idea about the writing process. What I had *no* clue about was about the process of writing for profit. As in, being able to eat depends on making the right choices in this book. As in, paying my rent depends on actually finishing and publishing this book. I still spend hundreds of hours on a single body of work, but it’s maybe half of what it used to be. Publishing means income, procrastinating means getting in debt. The editing process sucks, but I edit as I go and rarely need to do anything major after the first draft. That being said, writing the first draft is similar to walking through the fiery pits of Hell for certain projects. I did, at one point, try to get an agent so I could be traditionally published. Then, I went indie, and only looked back once when an agent from a major agency tried to sign me. I considered it, turned them down, and went about my business. The jury is also still out on whether or not that was a smart choice, but more on that, as well, later. I still ask myself “why” this is my path, especially when I think about how hard this career is.
The thing I either didn’t understand, or didn’t want to face, five years ago is that writing is too hard of a career to go into blindly. Seasoned writers tell amateurs how painful this path will be because they want to see them succeed. The best defense is a good offense and all that jazz. How many people would give up if everybody told them how easy it was to be a published writer who’s life depends on their writing selling? How many potentially great writers with epic stories would just stop? Nobody likes to be talked down to. Even in November.
I started NaNoWriMo in 2010. This time, five years ago, I had hope that I’d win that year. I didn’t. I did win in 2012 and 2013, but once again failed the following two years. This year? I’ll win because it’s my job now, and even though it was my job the last two years, I’m under deadline this time. I know I can win because I’ve written upwards of 22,000 words in a single day. A few weeks ago, I logged 18,461 on my last day of deadline, if I remember correctly. Do I do that regularly, or even often? No. But I can regularly clock 5-10,000 words in a day when I’m not tackling the business side of being an author. So I know I’m going to win this year. I no longer have these feelings of self-doubt about NaNo because I don’t write purely for pleasure now. I write to pay my bills. I write so I can continue to work in my PJ’s without a bra. And I’m writing this now, because I get why all those writing books told me this career would break me.
Because it has broken me.
Every book breaks me apart and stomps on my soul. Every day is a challenge because there’s nobody looking over my shoulder, making sure I’m working. Nobody decides my deadlines. Nobody holds me accountable. And that can be dangerous unless you want this– and I mean really want this. Being your own boss, especially in a creative field that’s so freaking emotional, is difficult. I won’t lie to a new writer and say it’s easy, or that they won’t bleed for their art and drown for their career. You will suffer. You will be overjoyed at times. You will love and hate this career. Sometimes it sucks. Sometimes it doesn’t. You might find success and you might not, but this journey is your own and it’s up to you whether or not you let a few bad days dictate whether or not you continue.
For what it’s worth– I hope you continue. It’s a pretty stellar life.