If you’re a part of the writing community, chances are you’re connected to authors and writers in all phases of the publishing journey. I’ve been a part of this magical space for over a year now, and some days it’s still surreal. But I do belong here? That’s the question. Maybe you’ve asked yourself the same?
My Facebook feed is often clouded with word count updates where authors shout it from the rooftops that they’ve had a glorious day in their “writing cave,” and with 2-8000+ (yes, really) shiny new words written, they fall exhausted into bed to dream about what else? Writing more words. New story ideas. Plot holes and plot bunnies and all sorts of weird and cool things.
It paints a nice picture, doesn’t it? A life and routine most writers dream of. Let’s not forget that if an author doesn’t get the opportunity to write for a length of time, they feel as if an arm has been cut off. I get it, I do. A day without fulfilling your passion—that fiery ball inside your chest, nestled right against your beating heart—and that fiery ball turns to separation anxiety. All you want to do is write! Why should life get in your way?
Right along with the “do I belong here” question, there’s another one that plagues me. Am I broken? Am I less of an author (or worse, not a “real” one at all) because I don’t spend my days writing in my “writing cave” and I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of loss if I don’t write for a day. A week. A few months…
Here’s a little background to put my life into perspective for you. I quit my job in the corporate world of marketing over a year ago to pursue writing full-time. It’s been almost a year since I published Starting from Lost, my one and only book out at this time. That means that while working full-time in corporate marketing I was able to come home and write and publish that baby. So wouldn’t you think since leaving that 9-5 job behind, that during this year, I’d have more books out by now? Yeah, me too. That was the plan, the hope, that elusive writer’s dream.
The truth is, I need an income to survive. A new author isn’t making much (or sadly, any) from their first book out. Money may not make the world go ’round, but it does allow for certain privileges. Like keeping my lights on and my water running, and okay, feeding my insane caffeine addiction (damn you, Starbucks!). And come on, I need books. Books cost money most of the time. So if I want to continue working from home and having those things, I need income and that’s not coming from my writing at this point. If I knew then what I know now I would have kept the 9-5 for another year, maybe two. I would have continued to write and publish on the side, and would have quit once I had a whole bunch of books out rather than one.
But I didn’t do that. So I did—and am continuing to do—what I know how to do. I brought my five years of marketing experience to the publishing world and I began to work with authors on their marketing for their books. So while they write and publish, I help them market and sell. In addition to working as a free-lance publicist with new writers all the way up to NYT bestselling authors, I also co-founded PageCurl Publishing and Promotion and those marketing wheels are turning because I continually grease them. I make more now than I did at my 9-5, but I’m not writing. My one published book sits idle and lonely while my notebooks are full of new story ideas that I insist I will get to “some day.”
I love my jobs. I love my authors. This vision isn’t the one I held dear when I handed my boss my two weeks, but it’s one that I enjoy (most days, ha!). For me, marketing is in my veins every bit as writing is in my friends’. I still want to write. I still want to publish, but I have to work or I’ll never make it. Have I thought about going back to a 9-5 so I can write more again? Sure, but then I realize that’s due to the pressure of this world we live in. It’s in the innocent phone call from my family and friends where they ask me how my writing is going and I feel guilty that I have nothing new to tell them yet. It’s the pressure of seeing my friend’s word counts soar when I haven’t written a word towards my WIP in a week.
That’s when I start to question my belonging and when insecurity chatters in my ear that I may not be an author. I’m a fraud. I’m a fake.
But you know what? You don’t need anyone’s approval to know that you’re an author. I certainly don’t either.
Stop comparing yourself to other authors. Who cares if they write faster, more frequently, or have more success. Life circumstances are always different, same as priorities. Sometimes your passion has to go on the back burner where you can keep the burner on low for as long as you need to. Forget the pressure to live your passion 24-7 because everyone says that’s how it has to be if you’re following your dreams. Because that’s what everyone around you seems like they are doing. They aren’t you. They aren’t me.
So live your passion as you can and without any stupid restrictions or assumptions, at your own pace. Follow your dreams the best you can. Do I wish I could write more? Hell yes, but I can’t right now. So I’m content to work with my author clients and join them in their successes all the while doing what I can to turn up the heat on my back burner.
The bottom line? Don’t get boxed in and disappointed by other authors’ opinions of how it’s done. Celebrate the small successes and have faith that one day you’ll be exactly where you were meant to. If you write one thing a year, one thing every couple years, or several things in a single year – YOU ARE AN AUTHOR. Don’t let anyone ever make you feel less.