People are funny critters. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ll turn around and do something to show you that you really had no idea about them.
Back in July of 2012, I made a public statement about my mission and my purpose: Within 5 years, I’m going to make a living off my writing. Now, when I say this, let me be clear that I realize my books alone will not be enough necessarily. Then again, I could get really lucky, but that’s not entirely up to me. My plan includes things like: doing some work-for-hire that pays me to write, being very aggressive about marketing my books, teaching workshops and classes, and offering critique and mentoring services. All of this involves or is directly related to writing, and it was always part of the plan.
Recently, I put a post on Facebook about this public declaration, and I mentioned it again to certain family and friends. I brought it up for several reasons. First, in the past 8 months since I made my declaration, many good things have happened that have made me feel more secure than ever that this is not only a good call, but it’s the right one. I’ve had two books come out (one new, one rereleased), I’m finishing the final touches on a third book to come out this fall (The Deepest Blue), I’ve started doing work-for-hire that is sharpening my skills and helping me earn a little more money, and I’ve had some very positive feedback from another publisher on a fourth book. In February I taught a workshop that went very well, I’ve been invited to do several presentations in the coming months, and I’m being asked to start teaching writing classes again through LifeLong Learning at the University of Utah. The second reason I brought up my declaration was that I believe if you don’t restate your goals, it’s easy to forget you have them. It’s sort of the “out of sight, out of mind” philosophy.
So yes, I went public on Facebook about my objective – and I was totally blown away at the responses I got and who gave them to me.
What caught me off guard the most were two writing friends – one of whom I truly consider a mentor – who pretty much said, “Are you crazy? You can’t make a living at this, obviously. We don’t, so how can you?” I’m sort of paraphrasing there, and to give proper credit, my mentor did come back later and say “If anyone can do it, I know you can.” But the initial response was sort of . . . well, shocking. One of the writers tolde me how many books over how many years he/she had written (I don’t want to give anything away), and how he/she had never been able to make a living off his/her writing by itself. One very sarcastic comment said “You’re much braver than I am.” My thought was, “Then why are you saying your a writer. Writers have to be brave just to do what we do in the first place.”
My initial reaction was – and still is to an extent – “Well, I will show you!” I am not only committed to doing this, but the more people tell me “You can’t” the more dedicated I am to proving them wrong! After a while, though, I began to understand their responses for what they were: their own fears on my behalf. In a way, I’m touched that they care enough about me to worry like that, but I am also just a tiny bit offended that I don’t get just a little more credit for having researched this and knowing what I’m getting into. It’s not like I just decided last July to become a writer. I’ve been doing this (for better or for worse) for 17 years. I’ve made many, many mistakes, and I’ve learned a great deal about this whole insane industry along the way.
It would be easy to think that I’ll never be able to succeed solely on my writing, but that was never what I committed to in the first place.I know that I will have to do more than rely on just my books. My mission is to have my “work” be writing-related. I will write, and I will still pray to the great gods of publishing to give me J.K. Rowling’s status. But I will also teach others, because I enjoy doing it and because I’m good at it. Mentoring has always been a huge aspect of my writing life, it’s just that now I will not do it for free because I’m tired of being taken advantage of. This is my career, my profession, and my LIVELIHOOD. What I do has a value, so I’m committing to be paid what I’m worth.
I have to say that I was equally surprised by the positive comments I received. Friends from around the world, some of whom I know only through Facebook, offered words of support and encouragement. They expressed their faith in me and told me I was doing the right thing by following my heart. Cousins and aunts and uncles all chimed in their support as well. One of the messages I received actually came by phone. The daughter of a friend of mine who had read Kiss Kiss Bark told me that because of me, she wants to be a writer when she grows up. Um – yeah. Tugged my heart strings. My family has long been supportive (for the most part, but that’s another blog for another time), and so my restatement of my objective was pretty much met with “Yeah, yeah. We know already,” but I guess that’s what I expected.
The point, I guess, is this: I make my goals public because I want the support. The surprise to me was that I needed to be challenged, too. Have someone say “You can’t,” only makes me yell, “Oh yeah? Watch me!” And as the good news continues to roll in, I will look forward to sharing it with everyone, whether or not they believe in me or support me. Like I said, aggressive marketing!