Four years ago, I had the greatest of good fortunes to score a year of bliss. I got to write full time.
It was unexpected and completely unplanned. I got retrenched from my day job with a big enough cheque that we figured if I wrote my ass off and sold enough, I might be able to extend the six months that the cheque gave us — potentially, I could extend that six months perpetually.
Well, it lasted a year. And my, it was a wonderful year. I outlined some of the joys of writing full time in a post, that I later archived in my articles section: “11 Things I Wish I’d Known About Writing Full Time When I First Started Writing Novels.”
I’m doing everything in my power to get back to full time writing, but in the meantime, that year of writing for a living gave me a somewhat different perspective on writing-with-a-day-job. I only realized the difference when I updated the article the other day.
Here’s some of the differences.
1. I Love My Pay Cheques
Before full-time writing (BFT), I was barely aware of the royalty cheques turning up in the mail. While writing full time, I used to have monthly embolisms waiting for the cheques to arrive on time — or at all. Now, I get a bi-weekly pay cheque from my day job, that covers all the bills, and several commission cheques for book sales from all the indie distributors I deal with, plus some legacy royalty cheques. The cheques arrive in the mail throughout the month, and I tally them up faithfully, grateful for all of them, no matter how large or small. I no longer have heart attacks when they don’t show up on their allotted days…and I’m glad I don’t have to have that heart attack. I’m aware of the difference and the money is the thing I would set up differently, next time I go full-time.
2. I’m A Much Better Time Manager
I don’t have ten or twelve hours a day to deal with all the myriad details of my writing business, anymore. I get 110 minutes a day to write new manuscript, and 60 minutes for promotion. That’s it. On weekends, I can squeeze a teeny bit more out of one of the days. I’ve grown much more efficient with my time out of sheer necessity.
Stat holidays have re-acquired special significance. They’re basically “free” days, or bonus days, and I try to take full advantage of them.
Instead of planning to get out of the house, I have to plan for desk time.
I was never this gung-ho about writing time, BFT, because I wasn’t aware of how much time I had “lost” by going back to a day job.
3. I Take The Business Much More Seriously
I have a genuine stake in publishing now. I’m a contender. BFT, I thought I was taking it seriously, but until I had sweated out a month living off a lean royalty cheque, until I was hooked on fiction writing through and through, until I wanted to write for a living and do nothing else, really want it (and I had to write full time to understand how much I wanted to do it), I was just a dilettante.
Now, I know exactly what I’m working for, and why. My goal is very clear and the steps I’m taking to get there are streamlined and quite single-minded.
It helps you off-load a lot of bullshit distractions that get thrown at writers as “you should be doing xxx if you want to be taken seriously/get published/thought of as a real writer” — the scams and crap that get dumped on writers, using the guilt trip as the major manipulation key is mind-boggling. Being clear-headed and dead serious about my goals makes spotting them a lot easier these days.
4. My Identity as a Writer is Rock Solid
Related to (3), but still independent. I can’t quite remember if I ever doubted myself, BFT. I know I doubted whether I’d ever make it to full time, and I’m sure that made me question whether I had the chops to be a “real” writer. I’m sure the faulty logic ran “If I was a real writer, then I would be selling hand-over-fist, making squillions, and writing full time. Ergo, I’m not a real writer.”
Well, I’ve written full time, although I didn’t get to full time by selling squillions. It doesn’t matter. I’ve written full time, and that year was enough to convince me that I am a writer. It’s hard wired into my brain and my mitochondria. My bones are made of calcified plotlines and my blood is the emotional juice of every character that I’ve ever written who has dripped angst onto the page.
I’m a writer who writes part time and has a day job. I’m working to get back to full time, where I know I’ll be back in my natural element (and drunk on the joy of it for a week, too).
Whatever the circumstances I may find myself in, my identity as a writer and author of fiction will never be in doubt again.
5. I’m Working Just As Hard as I was Writing Full Time, and Harder Than Before I Went Full Time.
I so intend to get back to full time writing. And I so remember all that glorious time I had to write — whole days of it. It makes me a teeny bit workaholic now. I work at the day job, and I work just as hard at my writing job as I ever did when I was writing full time. I don’t put in the same amount of hours, but I put in just as much effort.
BFT, I didn’t have the motivation I do now, so sometimes I took days off for no other reason than I wasn’t feeling the vibe to write, or life was a bit too stressful. There’s no way that happens now.
6. I No Longer Obsess About Getting To Full Time
BFT, I would hatch schemes, business plans, ten-step outlines, New Year’s resolutions and yet more schemes to get me to full time writing. I researched endlessly: ways to make it happen, how other writers pulled it off, what I needed to have in place in order to quit the day job. It was a major driving force that made me hate having to work each day (although I actually liked my job and the people I worked with). I resented the time I had to spend doing work for someone else’s agenda, when I could be working towards fulfilling my own.
I also felt like every other writer but me and a few wet-behind-the-ears newbies was happily writing full time. I writhed with something akin to professional jealousy.
That’s all gone now. I don’t scheme or obsess, although I do keep a healthy eye on my sales figures and revenue.
I no longer differentiate between writers with day jobs and writers who write full time. I just don’t give a damn.
7. I Know I’m Going To Get Back To Full Time
This is strongly related to (6).
I know in my bones that I’m going to get back to full time writing. I was there once. It’s possible in this universe for me to write full time. Planets did not stop in their tracks when I tried it, last time. So there’s no reason why I can’t do it again, and this time, I will be in full control about how and when I take the leap. That makes all the difference.
I have every intention of doing everything it takes to get to full time writing once again. And because I know in my bones that it’s going to happen, it takes all the obsessing, wondering and need to scheme and plan out of the equation. I can just get on with making serious money and building up my revenue in a straight-forward, business-like way.
8. Once You’re Fully Addicted to Writing Fiction, It Doesn’t Go Away
This is the underlying reason that is driving everything I’ve written so far in this post. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
I want those long days of being lost in a story. I want them back. I want to get to the end of the week and find I’ve written 75% of a novel in what has felt like the blink of an eye. I want the dedicated time to write all the novels I have on my publishing schedule, not over the next ten years, but the next ten months. Well, that’s probably pushing it, but two years instead of ten years to write all the books I’ve currently dreamed up, to make room for all the books I could dream up would be very nice indeed.
I’ve always wanted to write. Fiction writers usually don’t get into the business for any other reason.
Now, thanks to having written full time, I want to write all the time.
I would consider myself completely screwed, except that I intend to make it happen.
That’s eight things I’ve learned that changes you as a part-time writer, once you’ve had a taste of full time writing. It’s probably different for every author, too, so I should add the caveat that this is my personal list. Your mileage may vary.
This collection of posts turned into a series without me intending it. Here’s the sequence, if you want to read from the beginning: