1. The Solitude.
Now, if you aren’t extroverted like me, the solitude of writing might be a welcome one. Even so, you should realize that unless you have regular social times planned, you may go days without meaningful interaction with anyone except for your significant other (and/or children, whom, in my case, didn’t speak yet). Now, I knew I was extroverted and I was also a a part-time stay at home mom, so I made sure to make lots of plans in mommy groups to ensure I connected with other people. This helped, to be sure, but I realized I needed more people connection with my work itself, not just in other aspects of my life. For the most part, connecting with other authors or people in the writing industry doesn’t happen naturally, you have to initiate it. Given my time was very limited as a mom of young twins, I felt that spending time with writing groups, socializing with authors, going to conferences, all the things that would satisfy my extroverted side, weren’t worth it. In my mind, if I was going to be away from my kids, I should be strictly “productive” and churning out word count. This became very isolating for me. While I adore my children, the lack of meaningful adult conversations about things besides well, potty training and sleep schedules (not to undermine these conversations – moms need to know they are not alone too!), made me feel disconnected from the real world. I’ve since learned that writing doesn’t have to be so isolating, and I’ll be sharing my solutions to that in another post soon.
2. The Singularity
As I said, I figured if I was away from my kids to work, I should be strictly churning out words rather than doing anything else related to the business of writing. I suppose for some die-hard writers, it’s possible to write all day every day for months and years at a time. That is not the case for me, or, I believe, for most writers. I only have so much creative energy in me, and while I will occasionally go days or weeks of writing all day every day, I got quickly burnt out trying to keep that up. I needed more diversity of tasks, something other than just writing, for those days when it wasn’t coming, or just to keep me stimulated and energized. After a certain point, writing will suck the energy out of you instead of re-energizing you. Once that happens, you’ve got to sit back and do something else until the creative energy returns. This might all sound very bohemian, and again, it’s not something I necessarily would have bought into before I did it as my job, and even then, I was in denial and thought I was just being lazy. When I would have a free Saturday or 8-hour day of writing when I was working as a lawyer full time, and I’d churn out over 10,000 words. When I was writing three days a week, I struggled to get out 10,000 words. I was disappointed in myself and thought it was a matter of motivation. It turns out I only have so much creative energy in me.
Now that I am writing full time, I don’t try or expect to write 8 hours every single day. If I’m on fire with something, I do, but I’m aware that it’s not realistic to expect myself to do it regularly. I do work 8 hours though, as I’ve discovered there are about a million other business-related tasks I had been neglecting. In my post on 5 things I’ll do differently this time around, I talk about recognizing myself as not just an author, but an entrepreneur and business woman as well. Once I self-identified as more than just an author, it gave me free reign to engage in other activities aside from the writing itself.
3. The Uncertainty.
This goes to both the income from writing as well as simply the long term sustainability of it on a business and self-satisfaction level. On the income side, once the writing switched from a hobby that made money (yay!) to a job in which we relied on the money (eek!), the lack of certainty as to exactly how much I would make was harder than I expected. I knew how much I had to make as a bare minimum, but in terms of whether I could expect the income to keep growing as other jobs typically do, I wasn’t totally confident. Sure, as your backlist grows in theory you should have more of a cushion, more predictability and steady flow of royalties, but there are so many other factors to take into account. I had a decent sense of what to expect in the short term (say 3-6 months out), but it was impossible to plan for the long term. It’s a bit challenging to engage in any kind of financial planning when your potential income range is $0-infinity (only slightly exaggerating).
The uncertainty in terms of the long-term sustainability was also scary. I was developing a certain “brand” but I wasn’t sure how many books I could write within that brand before they became stale, or if the brand would organically grow and change with my writing and ideas. Some authors have tremendous success over decades-long careers churning out books, and others crash and burn pretty quickly. It’s tough to know where I would fall in this, and if I had it in me to keep up a sustainable writing career. Then again, you can probably say that about any career, but there is something uniquely uncertain about the sustainability of a creative endeavor that needs to generate money. Would I still be excited about writing books in the Ali Dean brand when I hit my fifties? That question scared me. It still does, and this is perhaps the only point I don’t have a solution to, but I’ve decided to take the risk anyway.
4. The Judgers
I didn’t expect to feel so much judgment, or to be so sensitive about it. While a lot of people seemed to think it was cool I was going off to do this, there were others who thought I was absolutely nuts to get off the career track and disapproved of my decision. With an ivy league law degree comes expectations, and writing commercial fiction, “smut”, “beach reads” or whatever people call it, fell short of those expectations. From that perspective, I should be devising strategies for solving major world problems, collaborating with innovative business people, breaking glass ceilings in the corporate world, etc. etc.
As it turns out, most of the judgment was internal. While there was certainly some external judgment as well, there always will be no matter what you do or how you do it. And, while it took some time to acknowledge and accept, I ultimately realized that writing is, in fact, an honorable endeavor, even if the primary plot line is about failing in love.
I adore this blog post by Lauren Layne that speaks on this topic: https://laurenlayne.com/a-word-on-romance-novels/
5. The Taxes.
Taxes are a huge pain in the butt when you are self-employed. ‘Nuff said.
6. I lied, there are six things: Writer’s Block
I suppose this goes hand in hand with #2, singularity. Before I wrote as a “job”, I thought writer’s block was a made up phenomena for when authors get lazy. I thought that you could always power through it and keep writing, if you had enough motivation and discipline. Nope, writer’s block is a real thing. And it sucks. Especially when it means you are unemployed while it lasts. It’s terrifying. You’ve announced a release date, the book is 80% done, and your brain just won’t trigger words. You sit in front of your computer, praying for the words to come, and nothing happens. Nothing. It’s horrible. Now, I don’t necessarily have a solution to this one, just to know it’s going to come at some point and that I have to wait it out, but it will eventually pass. In the meantime, I can try doing other “productive” stuff, but during writer’s block I find I do need to keep coming back to the computer and trying until it finally flows. If I stay away from the computer for too long, I start to get scared of it, and the blank screen becomes more and more intimidating. If anyone has another fix, I would love to hear it! Wine helps, I’ll admit 😉