I recently took a break in-between writing projects for an epic family vacation. But the break wasn’t just because of the vacay, it was also because my ever-steady writing flame was sputtering, threatening to puff out in a gasp of smoke. Since my first book published in 2011, I’ve been blessed to get a total of ten full (two soon-to-be-published) length novels and one anthology out there. I’ve rarely taken more than a month in-between projects because after the first rough year, I made sure to stay on a six-month schedule so I could get two titles out a year.
Of course, that’s not the only thing I’ve been doing. There’s the whole raising two boys, maintaining a full-time day job, being a partner and wife, and taking care of ailing in-laws on top of writing. There is a ton of articles out there how women take on too much, and they do, but what else can we do if we want to follow our dreams—creative or professional or both—and our hearts—families/partners of whatever mix? We know if we want it, we have to work for it. So we do.
For me, this meant that I was bound to hit that proverbial wall sooner or later. And man, the knot the impact left was a doozy.
During our family vacation, I took some of my quiet moments to re-evaluate my goals. Somehow since SHADOW’S EDGE came out, I got lost in the storm of all that revolves around a writing career until my time seemed sucked into a dark hole of “must-do’s” instead of creating. Whittling voices of doubt crept in, causing fissures in my belief of my writing, especially because so-and-so says you should do it this way, or you should have x amount of books out by now, or your sales should be, or you should be marketing, or…and the never-ending list grew into a wall of noise. All of which blocked out why I even started writing in the first place.
So back to the vacation and the downtime. It was time to have a serious sit down with my writer self and examine why I write in the first place. That meant setting aside all the “you must” guilt voices and focusing on what writing does for me. Does it still bring me joy? Is it still something I find purpose in? Would I be happy if it was no longer in my life?
Thankfully my answers were: Yes, yes, and no. So then I moved on to the next level.
If my writing never takes off further than its current position, would I still want to write? The answer—yes. Writing is crucial to my sense of self and there will forever be a part of me that hopes someone will find comfort/connection/escape to my stories. This answer means it is time to quietly shut the door on all those outside voices/advice/well-meaning pieces of advice and focus on my craft.
Yes, writing is a business, and yes, there are things I must do as an author. But I write, because I have stories to share. There will come a time when there are no mini-adults or full time job to lay claim to my hours, and at that time, I can become a marketing queen, but until then, I will focus on my writing.
There is so much out there about whether or not writers can make a living from their craft. Don’t expect me to have any answers, because in my case, it will probably be a long time before my writing can come close to replacing my day job. I’m not ready to give up the security of a steady paycheck with benefits or risk my family’s financial status. However, I’m in no way ready to give up on my writing either.
Which means—finding my own balance. And my balance may not look like yours—or yours—or yours. And that’s perfectly okay. My balance means keeping a steady writing pace, honing my craft, not playing the comparison game, doing marketing where I can, but not stressing over rankings and sales, making the most of the time I have left with my sons before they head out to college, and making time for quiet moments with my Knight.
For those looking for advice—all I can give you is: live the life that makes you happy and brings you peace. If you can rock the marketing game while writing, do it! If you have a plan to take you to the top of the lists, I’ll root for you all the way to the top. If you want to share stories because it just makes you happy, you pen those words like a master!
Writers write. We don’t have to define ourselves by sales or ranks or genre. We don’t have to be marketing whizzes, we don’t have to justify our paths, we just have to walk them with our heads high. Remember, we’re artists and artists think outside the norm, so go be you and forge your own path.