Three Years As a Writer.
Three years now as a Full Time Writer (in this coming November) and I am contemplating my next steps. It is nice now having some time behind me to look back on to see where I am going ahead.
I am not quite the wandering artistic type. I enjoy the business end of all things. And I have much experience of business behind me (and hope to create more ahead) and I apply this to my writing career.
As it is a career, once you aren’t doing it as a side project of changing diapers, going to school for a degree in some other field, or in the early mornings of the job that pays your bills altogether, the ball game changes. I may work that sort of job at some time again because I simply love the community it gives, the experience, and sometimes the boost of passion for something else…and knowing you do a good job, where writing sometimes leaves you wondering. And perhaps at a time, a step away from my passion and love and career and all my mind and life of writing will give me a refreshed boost for it as well. Until then…this is what I do and I do what I love.
In doing what I love and also making a living off of it, I have to treat it with a side of business. I can’t simply wake at noon, make my coffee and sit down in my pajamas and hope to write something marvelous that day. It takes a bit more than that on any given day to create a good piece of writing, much less the food on my table.
And in today’s “Being A Writer” there is the platform, social media…the today of marketing and strategy, so to put it, which any business or career takes, writing not excluded, which can unravel us from any work at all, while being a necessary part of the work. There is money to keep track of and there is what is written, what is to be written, what needs editing, and what to submit and to where. There is keeping up with industry, reading what you submit to, reading for continued learning of better writing…and publishing…and submitting…and…and…and. Being a writer is far from coffee and words. But still involves a lot of words. And a lot of coffee, for me.
My first year As A Writer, I lived on a grant and began with NaNoWriMo as my jump off point. I began my second (though yet to publish) novel. I enjoyed life in a small well sunlit loft with hardwood floors overlooking the Victorian architecture and Harbor of Galveston Island. Stormy days were a friend of a writer, as was coffee.
In that year I began shaping that novel but also shaping my “Business”, too. I began thinking ahead as a writer full-time…I wish I had done some things sooner, and I realized I was more advanced in other things than I had thought. I also learned to create self-discipline of The Work At Home lifestyle. And the motivation. Other days I created like mad for days and nights straight fueled on coffee. But I learned that year that coffee and writing was far far from what it took to Be A Writer…at least as a full-time career.
In my second year I began traveling full time, leaving the island and the bit of a steady life and the routine I had built, I would come to find out. I was also entering a bit more than two years into my relationship and so blending work with life. And this is what I found had been missing…some balance. I needed to learn to keep myself going FOR my work, OUTSIDE of my work. I needed other things. I needed more outdoor time, exercise time, sunshine, pleasure reading, and other hobbies. And this began to take shape as did a year of articles and essay writing, as did platform, as did spreadsheets, as did much study of the who what why when and where of the industry as the questions that I had not previously known to ask began to form. To make a living after my first year, I also had to blend the short frequent projects with the longer take time to see a turn projects. And none of it promised money and income, while I needed to be sure I created some, too. And thus…not all writing was fun writing.
Entering my second year of full-time travel and my third year of full-time writing I was learning that taking shape, seeking balance, too, never quite ended. I entered into not one new novel, but a series of five new novels, aside from keeping some bread and butter on the table in articles and essays. I began a new series of essays. I was entering new era’s of my writing. And sometimes I wanted to do too much and had to learn the power of pulling back and …focusing. And quality over quantity.
In my career as a writer mixed with my traveling, I really wanted to explore Literary America. I traveled to literary places, historic literary, current literary. I listened to readings, I went to The Moth events, I visited dozens of book festivals, I attended panels of authors, especially those who wrote and spoke or intertwined things of today socially…border issues, being Mexican in America issues, being Black issues, and even the sexual orientation or mental health or physical disabilities wound in a fiction story for young adults. Some writing was in your face change…TELLING of change…other writing was simply written as if it was the way it was and hoped you didn’t…and did…notice. I visited indie bookstores and bookstores of all kinds in all towns and cities. And I studied changes, differences, and trends among them.
I spoke to authors, I poured over youtube videos of publishers, literary agents, authors. I attended college lecture after college lecture. Signings, readings, panels, discussions, And I sifted through the writings and authors of the internet. I fell asleep reading books into the wee hours of the morning, I drank my coffee over magazines and I waited in lines reading literary journals on my nook. And in working on my own Five novels project in the Deep South, I visited the bookstores of those locations, I spoke about trends, books, authors, writers, and I attended writers events, readings, I bought and read southern authors from those locations and states (which is how I got really into Jesmyn Ward), I even spoke to Waffle House cooks who were aspiring authors and I attended the Mississippi Book Festival to get a dose of the Southern Literary Scene. Combining travel and writing had not been my first intention in traveling, but has become a very large part of it.
I also didn’t forget to write. I researched in a way I had never done before. I was boots on the ground. I have sweated in the Southern sun and listened to the stories of many. I have also created balance. I walked away from it all a little every day…put it all down to ride my bike, walk my dog, enjoy fiddling with my plants. Sometimes when we visit different towns I leave my camera at home, or even carry it’s heavy weight on my shoulder but never take it out of its bag. When I do take photos many are in capturing inspiration, or the vision of the place I see for my own books, or even just for the fun and love of my hobby in photography. Sometimes to simply capture memory. Even my notebook will stay put and later I will write upon reflection later, having marinated in it all a moment…other times pen and notebook in hand in some courtyard garden sipping coffee and often by myself or sometimes with my partner and he understands my need for some uninterrupted silence and will read his own nook and drink his own coffee while we break for a moment from our busy minds taking it all in and growing overwhelmed, tired as our feet after walking all over entire cities and towns. We invest in comfortable shoes.
I have learned better to structure both my work overall, my life balance, and also each individual project works. I am still learning and still shaping…all of it. And at times I forget. As today I realized that somehow I hadn’t watered my little herb plants in weeks…I’ve thought about them, walked over to them, sat next to them and it never even crossed my mind somehow to water them…such as the brain can do to a person I suppose. I am one for detail…and one to fully overlook something so in my face, right there, thought about except for watering (I have been thinking about replanting and new soil and compost while at the very same time watering slipped my mind). I guess “Attention to detail” may need to come off of my resume. It is funny…there are 50 tiny details that will never slip past me (and infuriate me that they go unnoticed by my partner, Joe) but then some one thing here and there that leaves me smacking my forehead unsure of how THAT one could have got by me.
Sometimes this is due to too many details…and not reminding myself to slow down. It is all in the works and will never be perfect…from personal to profession to each project to every detail in life. But it is coming together. And now I am writing my five novels and always noting some detail to add…to check, to be sure of, or realization that I am missing….the layers. While taking the time to write five novels I still take small breaks for other articles and pieces. For my ongoing essay series’ and so forth…and yeah…for that paycheck. And in all for not allowing to lose all media and platform and that side of what this job, and all jobs in some aspect, entail, even if someone else in a company does them, in MY company I am who is doing them all. In other jobs or companies there are departments for most of these where one or twelve people can be running each part…in this and for now it is just me…and only so many hours and in only so many days.
I have to take into account how to organize it all…what works best for me…and what keeps me interested. Sometimes staying in tune to what isn’t fully interesting. (I mean, there are taxes). I need to access different things from different places and with and without internet or if my computer crashes. I need reminders to back things up or to go to the grocery store.
There are so many tools out there and then one must learn which ones to try, then how to use each of them and navigate them all, then grow accustomed to them and to at first put the effort, habit building time into them and then to create cutting down that time and especially this takes the Remembering How To do it efficiently. The less time spent on planning, the more time spent on working and creating. Even just reading the Submit Pages for each publication and utilizing their submit forms takes up valuable days worth of time in a year. Over time particular publications become familiar. And researching Literary agents…the right one for me (what I need in life is a Mrs. Hudson from Sherlock, the Netflix version…I wouldn’t mind an actual Benedict Cumberbatch looking Sherlock for attention to those details, either). But alas…as advanced as humans are supposedly, we still pick up the poop after our pets rather than our pets making us a cup of tea and that is all I’ve got at the moment.
As a writer we use programs such as simple Word Doc or Scrivener. I am currently using Google Docs and Scrivener and Scrivener itself I am convinced needs an entire college course for it and I would still never grow quite accustomed to it. But in gathering our research, our notes, our characters information and breakdown, even location, storyline, and chapters. Then layers and changes and building and arches and then editing…phhh, editing. We writers do as those homeowners who make the beds before the maid comes kind of editing. And then there is the search and pitch and securing a Literary Agent…and for smaller articles and such the How To Submit information for each publication as well as their submittal forms, and ohhh the Query! Bain to all existence of every writer.
It never helps when we are slowed down by lightning killing your laptop or not being able to find a location to print your 300 pages, or your home printer constantly jamming for the smaller prints jobs or the need to do other things life requires outside of writing…and then to fit in the writing itself….awwww. And mind set? Ha! Forget it…we don’t truly get to dive into our clear the world away writers mind set…you stop other things…and you write. You DO.
Stephen King wrote in a back of a laundry room closet size of a trailer to create his first novel which brought in a HUGE advance but he didn’t do so without his wife making at least some of the household money, paying some of the household bills, putting some of the food on the table, much less cooking the food and bathing the children and keeping them from bothering daddy while he wrote. And yes, my own partner sacrifices much for me as well to do what I do…this is the existence of partnering to a writer. And this is without mention of the lost in our thoughts moments or the we have to write this now moments and so many other quirks we do come with. My partners closet space grows smaller as my book collection grows larger…and we live in an RV. Next is a boat and I am afraid of him opening cabinets and books tumbling out. The good soul did try to get me hooked on a nook, and it has helped…for lit journals and magazines which I read to write (such as Writer’s Digest Magazine) and I read to know (such as The Atlantic) and I read to write for (such as The New Yorker).
But sacrifice of the writers partner is another story for another time.
I end my summer today, the first day of fall 2018. I am still working on my five novels…of course. And I am wrapping up my 4th quarter work while soon and already, honestly, preparing for my new year. My Motto for 2018 was No Wasting Time. I did well…but not peak, on that.
I have come to learn better how to shape my planning…but not yet how to spend less time on doing so. It will come…I am taking some steps back and evaluating…research a bit more in the direction I have found on the How. I love examples. I see what works for me and what does not. And I implement those small changes as they come now, too.
And now on to my next steps as a Writer…through finishing five novels, finding an Agent for them, getting them published, and my essays and articles of course.
My essays have their shape and direction but my articles need some direction changes and more solid shape…what do I want to really write? To whom? For what? And Where to publish them? In my travels I have yet to truly write about traveling…or the social demographics I travel through, such as an RV campsite in Red country during the 2016 presidential election or the outweighing amount of homelessness and drug use in Mississippi.
So I believe my articles are where most change and shape will happen for my fourth year…and a little more focus given. And I hope for publication for novels (my five and my last one as well, BTWG). My essays will continue though we are entering a publishing and agent phase there. Eventually there will be a book shift in that category as well. And the novels will wrap up in their time while I am already sure of my next works in that area. I will have to give some time and attention to the business side of my career in writing as well….I do see some lectures and seminars and such in my future on the subject, more reading, and a lot more doing with a lot better scheduling. Balance with the literary course will be the business course. All with balance in life itself because I don’t believe anymore as I near closer to my fourth decade in life in only work and no happiness and I understand the need to clear my mind, my thoughts, my worries to better work to create. I need space from computer screens and words to make words happen. And I need my shoulders to learn positions other than hunched over books and computers. These things all make a whole. As a writer. As a woman. As a person. As living life.
I look forward to discovery of new directions, slight changes, more building in other parts of this career, and always learning. On to my fourth year.
How do you plan and structure your planning for your writing, even if part time writing since that can be even harder, or just as at least, as full-time structure.
Do you use computer programs to schedule? Spreadsheets? A Bullet journal? A planner?
Show me what you’ve got!