If you're a creative, you likely feel guilty when you take time "away" from "real life" to practice your art. This is an epidemic in the creative field and one that I am becoming more and more frustrated by.
Too few artists and writers and musicians have the luxury of doing their work on a full-time basis. When we talk about making our art as our career, it's often in awe-laced voices. Smile lines around the eyes deepen and a happy glow radiates from our faces. Phrased like, “Someday…" and “When I retire…" and “Wouldn’t it be wonderful …” are common phrases we too often mutter.
Why is the world set up in a way so that bankers and accountants and software engineers and business owners are lauded and given the head nod of approval, while those of us who create are told to “do it in your free time?” Where has the respect for art and creativity gone? Why do we as a culture no longer embrace the creative gifts the same way as we did in the Renaissance Period?
Maybe my view is skewed. I certainly didn't get enough sleep last night. Still, it irks me that creatives gifts are seen as “less than,” because our society views money-making endeavors as more important. But when did the dollar bill outshine the importance of creating? When did the banks become more important than the art galleries, and Wall Street more valued than creative expression?
When did we decide as a culture that working 40 or 50 or 60 hours a week in a cubicle or warehouse or office was more important than living a full life, one that includes creative expression and communication—not just as a “side hustle,” but as our life’s work?
This is one of the reasons that I recently joined Patreon. Unfamiliar with this community? It's a platform that allows art patrons to support artists and their creative endeavors. I've been thinking for joining for a long time, but that little voice in my head held me back.
"Who are you to think that people would want to support your writing?"
"Don't you think that people have more important things to spend money on?"
"Get over yourself. There is no way that you'll get anyone to take a chance on your work."
Of course, that sealed the deal. If I've learned one thing from that negative, critical voice over the years it's this: do exactly what it fears most.
So I created an account on Patreon. You can watch the video below for more information, or check out my page there right now.
I believe that creativity matters. I believe that people love books and stories. And I believe that my career as an author and writer will grow stronger with the support of a community.
If you aren't a newsletter subscriber, you may have missed today's big announcement: the winners of the (2) Amazon gift cards. Angela L., and Melissa B., were chosen at random from everyone who entered the "Sharing the LOVE" contest. Congrats, ladies! I'll get your gift cards out to you soon.
My Dream of Being an Author
"Did you always want to be an author?" People have asked me that question in recent years. The honest answer? No. But maybe not for the reasons you'd expect.
I dug out my "School Years" book today to see what I had aspired to be as an elementary student. You know, those funny little spiral-bound books where you glue a picture of yourself, along with the most important facts about yourself. Like, "best friends," and "hobbies," and of course the section for "what I want to be when I grow up."
While my book is somewhat ruined due to water damage, I could see a trend in my goals: a mother and a teacher (like my own mother). By about the sixth grade, I'd apparently lost interest in being a mother, and just wanted be a teacher. By high school I'd sworn off both. I was going to be a photojournalist for National Geographic who never married or had children...or a veterinarian.
As a kid though, no one ever suggested to me that I could be an author. In fact, the little boxes in the School Years book don't list that as a potential career. But I could have aspired to be a model, I guess, or an airline hostess (except I've never been thin or tall enough for either of those careers). Those options do have little boxes beside them.
Even though I've adored writing my whole life--starting with the stories I wrote in childhood, the "magazine" my friend and I created monthly, the embarrassing poetry I wrote in middle and high school and the constant, incessant journaling I've done since I can remember--no one ever said, "Hmm. Do you think you might like to write as your career?"
In fact, I never thought of writing as a way to make a living until 2007, when my oldest sister (who obviously knew something that the editors at "School Years" didn't), asked me why I didn't try freelance writing. Not as a hobby, but a job.
So, I did.
I had a writing business for nearly eight years and wrote hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, blog posts, website content for businesses and nonprofits, newsletters, four novels, and one non-fiction guide for writers.
I fell in love with writing novels
I'd love to tell you that once I wrote that first novel my path was set, the floodgates opened and the money and fame poured in. But that would be as fictionalized as my books.
In reality, it's been a long, slow, uphill climb. I nearly gave up completely due to a new, full-time job and the criticism of my books.
Thin skin + author = unhappy person.
Still, I've never given up on my dream. Someday, maybe five years from now or 10 or maybe 20, I want to make a living from my books. I can't imagine a better job than creating stories that transport readers. To bring readers to different times and places, and offer an adventure that they can take with them wherever they go? That's the best job in the world in my book.
Remember what a big deal “special sauce” was to McDonalds in the 80’s? Competition between the Golden Arches, Burger King and other fast food places was fierce. Smart marketers knew the importance of setting McDonalds apart from competitors.
(Side note: Mickey D’s recently sent that special sauce recipe to auction ... raising money for a nonprofit.)
This isn’t a post about branding your writing business, though or even setting yourself apart as a writer (both are important). Instead, we’re focusing on that “special sauce” that can help you experience long-term success with your writing business.
How? Through creating a recipe that you love and want to pull out again and again.
First, we’re going to need to gather up some ingredients. There are the essentials, of course: determination, drive and persistence. A thick skin is important because as writers, we accept that rejection is part of the process. What are we missing? Oh yes, skill and ability along with a bit of experience. And now? The pièce de résistance: flow.
“Huh? Flow? Are we still talking about writing here, or Zen meditation?”
Flow, or diversity, is important in one’s writing business.
When I first started writing professionally, I was dedicated to journalism. I wanted to see my name in glossy national publications. I dreamt of browsing the local Barnes and Noble and seeing my byline in one of those magazines on the stands.
I started out slowly, working with one magazine and then more and more national publications. It was exciting and interesting. For a while. But while I loved journalism, I was ready to try something else.
Fast-forward several years and I have three published novels and one nonfiction guide for writers under my belt. Can you guess what else I’m writing? Journalism articles and copy for corporate clients. And now I’m flowing again: teaching writing and writing-related business classes.
My point is without flow in our writing business, we run the risk of becoming stuck. Or stale. Who wants to be those?
How to "flow"
When looking to future success it’s important to make sure we have all of the ingredients that we need, or a way to get them. There are many great programs, books and resources that can help to take our writing to a new and different level.
First though, determine what type of writing you want to include in your business. Books? Ghostwriting? Journalism articles? Freelance blogging? Editing?
It doesn’t have to be five different areas, but it could be that or more. Like building a financial portfolio, writing should include various streams of income to help you diversify not only your checkbook but your creativity. This will also help you beat the feast and famine cycle.
The beauty of creating your own secret sauce, is that it’s just that: your own. Choose the ingredients that make you sing: if writing ad copy doesn’t, leave it out of your recipe. Likewise, if you feel a thrill every time you are paid to create a blog post or write a press release, hone in on those areas.
There is no right or wrong here, other than matching your writing skills and preferences to what customers and clients need.
What are your areas of flow in writing? Do you want to strictly write novels like Stephen King or does crafting stellar blog titles light you up? What makes your writing interests or business diverse?
Recently, we talked a bit about nourishment and how important it is for writers. I even encouraged you to try a few activities that you find nourishing for the past two weeks. Did you? What were the results?
“But who has the time?” you may be asking.
Humans are a busy race, aren’t we? There’s always more that needs to be done, a never ending treadmill list of to-do’s and should-do’s and don’t-want-to-do’s. When faced with all of these, it’s easy to believe we don’t have time to write. Or to take care of ourselves.
But that simply isn’t true.
It may take effort on our part, but we can make the changes necessary to make sure that the great doesn’t suffer at the sake of the mediocre. And it doesn’t require running away to a week-long retreat at a Lake House or flying to the South of France for reprieve.
Before you delve into writing … rest.
I’m giving you permission today to take a break. Put your feet up. Rest on your laurels. Recharge your batteries.
I don’t know about you but I’m sick and tired of playing superhero when in reality, I’m just a regular old person, nagged by a critical voice and hounded by overly ambitious to-do list, struggling to live more mindfully and contentedly in a world where neither is glamorous.
Filling the Writing Well
… isn’t necessarily applauded. Don’t expect your family to cheer you on when you tell them that they will have to start making their own dinner once a week or putting away their own laundry. You aren’t likely to hear enthusiastic “hurrahs!” from volunteer boards that you step down from. The other moms at the school might not understand when you say that you can’t make all the meetings anymore, or that, no, you can’t bake another batch of cupcakes. It is someone else’s turn.
Expect resistance. And make filling your creative well a priority anyway.
Too scary? Take it in small steps.
In what ways could you free up 15 minutes a day to nurture your creative side? Note: I’m still not encouraging you to write at this point. Fill first, then pour out your bucket later. Could you stop watching the news? Give up that Hollywood housewives show or pare down other fruitless pursuits like trying (and failing) to be Supermom/Superdad + Superemployee + Supervolunteer +/or Superfriend?
And instead allowing yourself to do the best with the time/energy available to you while making nurturing yourself a priority.
If you haven’t yet read The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron, please make time to do so. Hey! You can fit that into your 15 minutes of quiet nurturing. For a faith-based book in the same vein that is equally well-written, check out The Creative Call by Janice Elsheimer. Both of these books will fill you with hope that you can make not only your writing, but yourself a priority. Guilt-free.
Still not sure? What do you believe stands in your way? Post your challenges here—maybe one of us can help you.
Boy, do I wish I’d had a list of resources like this eight years ago, when I was scratching out the first draft of Epidemic, my first (completed) full-length manuscript.
Working a day job at the time, I got most of my advice for writing one’s first book from the usual sources: Writers Digest, Writers Market and writers conferences. Some of the advice was great, some was “eh” and some was downright harmful. I talk a little about how I got over the bad advice and learned to do my own thing in this e-Guide.
Before delving into the list, see if one of the following descriptions fits you:
1. Working a full-time job, you are lucky to squeeze in time to pack a lunch before rushing from the house for another long day.
2. You’ve recently cut back to part-time work or been downsized by your company. While you dreamt of using the extra time to start—or finally finish—your first book, at the end of the day you end up wondering where the extra time went exactly.
3. When you pictured this time of your life, you forgot to add in all the extra responsibilities: like kids and/or aging parents and/or volunteer committees and/or work obligations that eat up much of your free time.
Your writing falls by the wayside because you’re tired.
You are also stressed. And you don’t feel like writing. I get it.
But you know deep down that writing a book, a real, first time, hold-it-in-your-hands book is something that you want, no MUST do before you die. It’s been on your bucket list before there was such a phrase. You know in your marrow that whatever else you do in your free time, you will make this work. Somehow.
If you’re looking for a few practical, easy steps to finish your first novel, you’ll want to check out this post, How to Write Your Novel in 15 Minutes at a Time. If you’re looking for other resources or something a bit more in depth, check out this list of Top 5 Sites for 1st Time Authors.
I dare you to come away from this list uninspired.
Top 5 Sites for 1st Time Authors
· The Write Life—packed with real-life, practical, you-can-use-this-idea-today articles, The Write Life discusses various aspects of writing: from freelancing and blogging, to marketing and self-publishing, this site is an absolutely wonderful place to start and continue to learn about writing.
· 10-Minute Novelists— my 15 minute writing method seems slow in comparison! This is an even faster way to get yourself motivated to write and keep on going. Site has a lot of great articles. The best part? The community built via Facebook/Twitter where you can pose questions or offer suggestions to other authors.
· The Creative Penn—not necessarily geared toward the first-time author, but there is such a wealth of information here that I’d be remiss not to include it. Learn about the in’s and out’s of self-publishing, the importance or writing schedules and other great information here.
· Funds for Writers—this is a great site for new and experienced writers. C. Hope Clark blends information pertaining to grants, contests and tons of freelance and writing market news into this website. *Sign up for her free Funds for Writers newsletter and get a ton of information directly sent to you each week.
· Lindsay Buroker—again, this is the site of a professional author. In addition to her prolific offerings of fiction books, however, Lindsay Buroker also offers practical, easy-to-understand posts for writers—those just starting out and those who have been at it for a while. Plus, she’s funny and I enjoy her books.
Would love to learn more about what resources you’ve discovered that aren’t on this list. Please leave a comment or click to tweet/share on Facebook to keep the conversation going.
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