With the ever-increasing ease of self-publishing, more and more people are becoming writers. Most are doing it on the side of some other occupation, with no intention of ever taking on writing as a full-time career. But many are looking to cut loose from the corporate world and write full time.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like?
As someone who now writes full-time, let me share my experience.
My workday starts alongside breakfast. I check my email, social media, and all that other “outside world” stuff. Then I settle in and write. I’ll often run errands either just before or just after lunch, and take care of odd jobs around the house. The afternoon is another block of writing. All told, I’ll generally average around 2500 words on a day where errands and home repair tasks don’t eat into my day too badly.
Once my wife gets home from work we have dinner and settle in for the evening. Early on in my full-time writing, I kept working in those evenings, like I had when I was working a day job full time and evenings were my only option to write during the week. In the absence of plans with friends or family, my weekends often ended up looking just like weekdays, and working both days and evenings, I was essentially writing to the exclusion of all (or at least most) else. So I curtailed my weekend writing and mostly stopped working in the evenings after my wife gets home. Due to finite creative output, my productivity did not drop off by as much as I had worried it might.
This is one where individual experiences will vary wildly. Some people will write on a laptop that they take just about anywhere. Coffee shop, beach, back yard… you name it, they can write there. But I have a small home office tucked in the corner of my bedroom, with a 2-monitor desktop PC. One screen is my WIP, the other usually centered around a Chrome window with tabs to all my social media outlets, email, and anything I’ve been using for reference material.
I have a netbook. While I’ve written on it a few times, I don’t like to. Mainly it gets used while traveling, so I don’t fall behind on a manuscript, or lose my momentum on the story. Yes, it is still possible to have work follow you on vacation, even when you’re self-employed.
For the majority of my adult professional life, my office has consisted of a ~6’x8′ fabric box with 3 1/2 walls and no door. My desk held a computer and various odds and ends, and I sat in a rolling chair with one of those gas-piston height adjusters. Now? The cubicle is gone, but the desk of odds and ends as well as the chair remain much the same. But these days no one cares if I have the volume turned up on my speakers. I also no longer sit directly under an A/C vent; now I can either turn on the A/C, open a window, or neither.
Co-Workers (or lack thereof)
In the past, I’ve worked for companies with thousands of employees and ones so small that the CEO buys everyone pizza on Fridays. In the former, grids filled with cubicle dwellers were the rule of the day, and I knew the names and faces of some reasonable percentage of the people I came in contact with. In the latter, I’ve known everyone in the company, and often their spouses’ and children’s names.
While I occasionally interact with people professionally, it’s not the same as having them as co-workers. My editor can easily be mistaken for a few emails and marked up manuscripts. My collaborators on anthologies and bundles are each a smiling, freeze-frame image in Google Plus. I know at least as many writers by their Twitter or Reddit handles as I do their real names.
These days I have a single co-worker. Her job is to make sure I get my lazy ass out of my chair a few times a day. She is also Chief Morale Officer, in charge of defusing bad and/or frustrating days.
These are the bane of my working life. For every article about some interesting topic in sci-fi or fantasy literature or about some technique that might help me in my writing, there are a hundred click-bait BuzzFeed stories, quizzes, and cat videos floating around in my social media stew.
I don’t have a perfect technique for dealing with this. I don’t cut myself off from the outside world while I write (I’m quite remotely located as it is, thanks), don’t turn off all my devices, don’t close all my browser windows (the internet is essential, IMO, for anyone who does research for their books). I just sort of deal with the distractions being distracting, and remind myself to get back to work.
The fact that I love what I write about helps stay focused.
This is the elephant in the room for the dream of full-time writing. And let me be frank: if my wife wasn’t 100% on board with my writing career, I’d still have an office job. I make money as an author. My books sell. But I don’t make the sort of money that a diligent, home-owning adult would consider a respectable income.
I’ve been at this two and a half years. I expect that it will be another two-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half (my 5-10 year plan for overnight success) before I start getting real traction. You hear stories about people whose first book takes off and makes them piles of money. These people are generally either…
- … lucky.
- … have done a lot more work leading up to this “overnight success” than you’ve been lead to believe.
- … or lying.
You can always find example of good writing wallowing in obscurity and awful writing that makes a fortune. Marketing, word of mouth, and having the right book fall into the right hands play a huge role in that.
The rest of us just need to keep writing books, keep finding new readers by whatever means come available, and writing more books.