Many of you who read this blog desire to be career authors, and kudos to you. It is a fun job and a great time. I used to be in sales. I literally hated my job so much that every day I would throw up on the way to work. Every day I died a little more. I just knew that writing was the life for me. Ah….but how little I really knew.
After almost ten years at this and a lot of bumps and bruises, I can safely telly you guys that being a career writer is more than the writing, especially now. There has been a major paradigm shift in the world of publishing and writers have more creative power than ever in history. Ah, but with more power comes more responsibility. When we publish a book, the laundry does not magically disappear.
I KNOW! I felt robbed too.
My two-year old is not in the least impressed by my fancy New York agent. In fact, The Spawn is addicted to the B-O-T-T-L-E (we can no longer say the B Word, so have resorted to spelling it). In fact he Joneses so badly for a B-O-T-T-L-E that I swear he has one taped behind the toilet. As he shrieks for the B-O-T-T-L-E that we have taken away, he has zero compassion for Mommy’s blog deadline…or ability to hear.
Dishes still fill the sink and the cat still pukes in my floor…and always at the crack of dawn, just enough to rouse me awake grossed out and afraid to get out of bed. The bills need to be paid and the yard keeps growing and I keep writing as I pray that, if God really is good, I can one day afford someone else to push the vacuum.
None of you can relate, I’m sure.
Whether you work a day job and eek in what writing you can will out of your tired body at dawn, during lunch, or in the evening OR if you happen to be like me and
held hostage a stay-at-home mother, you know that this career so so much more than the writing.
Being a career writer is more than the book. Why do I tell you this? Because it is going to affect how you train. Yes, train. Writing is not a marathon, as many author-bloggers might have you believe. It is more like a decathlon….oh, but one of the events is a marathon. This career, as some of you already know, is so much less about talent and far more about endurance. I have talented writers I know who will never make this a career even if they publish. Their approach will burn them out quickly or keep them trapped at a certain level.
We’ll talk about why in a moment.
In a decathlon, there are ten events from running to pole vaulting to shot put, and athletes are judged on their collective scores.This means that, not only does a participant need to be able to run distance, but he has to be a good sprinter, and also strong and flexible. All aspects of his physique are going to be tested and then judged against his competition.
Same with writing.
We have to write, edit, learn about the craft, organize, plan, run a business, read, research, market, blog, speak, and teach. There is so much more to this career than just the writing.
Now that Mommy is a writer, I just feed myself with stolen pizza and a butter knife.
Yes, We Must Do A LOT to Be Successful
I can tell writers who aren’t avid readers in three pages. I can tell writers who haven’t properly researched pretty early on, too (and I don’t finish those books). It takes me less than a page to spot writers who haven’t read craft books. Writers who refuse to do social media? Well, their days are numbered.
We have to be organized (I’m still working on this one). First of all, writing a novel requires we be organized. Any work spanning 80-100,000 words is going to need to be plotted and the right events placed at the right point. People who just sit down and write until they stop? Yeah, that ain’t a novel. Novels that do not have narrative structure—antagonists and major plot points—well, they aren’t novels. They are an entity with no skeleton. Or, if there is a skeleton, some bones are missing or in the wrong place. In nature that is called an aberration. In writing that is called Book that Won’t Sell.
Organization will also be critical when it comes to the business end of this business. Tracking sales, filing royalty statements, receipts, deductions, and TAXES. Oh my!
Don’t get me wrong. Some of those things writers don’t have to do, but it could impact their final success. For instance, authors don’t have to do public speaking, but those who can and do have an added advantage. Authors who can present at workshops and conferences stand a far better chance of meeting the right person who opens the right door to take her career to an entirely new level.
I generally work six days a week….7 if one counts The Spawn.
Mommy, why are you crying?
This isn’t to have a pity party. I love my job. I loved every minute of spending time with my writing peeps. I love being able to support other writers and learn new things. I love being able to open up the world of social media for some newbies and make it more accessible. But I do have to say that you have to train to be able to endure this kind of schedule and still be productive.
Mommy, are you writing? I’m hungry. All my underwear is dirty.
Those kids hanging off our leg are still there even when we decide to write. In fact, as I type these words I have a two year old screaming….shhh B-O-T-T-L-E. If he isn’t screaming about that, then he’s upset because I won’t let him climb on the table and play with knives. Despite commercials that say otherwise, the toilets still won’t clean themselves, and apparently they can put a man on the moon, but have yet to invent clothes that never need to be washed.
Change Your Perspective and Change Your Life
I am here to change your perspective and make those challenges your triumphs. Learn to do it anyway. Those kids that interrupt you every thirty seconds are a blessing. Think of it like running pulling a weighted sled. This is author training. If you can learn to maintain your focus despite all of life’s distractions, think of how amazingly productive you will be when one day you do have that private office and can afford a meth-addicted howler monkey with a sidearm to guard your writing time. Heck, you will probably be twice as productive at least.
Successful authors are a multitasking MACHINE. This is one of the reasons it is SO vital for us to brand our name when it comes to social media. We already have a lot of responsibilities, so streamlining becomes paramount. Spreading ourselves too thinly can be a formula to give up.
I see a lot of writers who will not make it in this business. Why? Often they aren’t doing the tasks that are vital to writing a great book—reading and learning the rules of the craft. This is like wanting to win a decathlon, but eating pizza everyday and not going to the gym.
These days, everyone can get published so a new benchmark of success is becoming book sales and list rankings. I watch a lot of writers who are too obsessed with the marketing side of things. They are banking everything on the success of ONE book and aren’t getting back to the computer and working on the next book and the next and the next.
Other writers are blogging machines. Blogs are GREAT for branding….if done properly. Many writers are wearing themselves out posting blogs that will do very little to brand their names. They are writing thousands of words a week that do…almost nothing. Or they are blogging, but never getting to writing the actual book.
These types of writers are only focusing on ONE aspect of their careers. They are like the participant in the decathlon who only focuses on one event. It is a recipe to lose.
Athletes who compete in decathlons use a lot of different skills—speed, endurance, strength. They walk this fine balance of giving an event their all….without really giving it their all. They still must have energy left to effectively compete in the other events and outpace the competition.
We writers must learn to give it our all….without giving it our all. The better we get at balancing our duties, the more successful we will be in the long-run. Writers who fail to appreciate all this job entails won’t be around in a year or three. They are like a runner who sprints at the beginning of a marathon. They will fall by the side of the road, injured and broken.
So today when you have to squeeze in that 100 words on your break from work, think I’m training. When your kids hang off you as you write, picture that weighted sled. Play the soundtrack to Rocky if you must. Hey, winning is always easier with a TEAM. Rely on your WANA (#MyWANA) teammates for help. Platforms take a lot of work and time to build, but, unlike the dishes, you don’t have to do it by yourself.
We are not alone!
What part of your life are you now going to view as author training? What setbacks can you reframe in the positive? What commitments are you going to make to be successful for the long-term? What have you been doing wrong? What problems are you having? What do you now think you could do differently?
I LOVE hearing from you!
And to prove it and show my love, for the last bit of January and the month of February, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of February I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck! Will announce last week’s winner and January’s winner on Wednesday.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.