When we research how to make a living as a writer, people talk about being serious about our writing and treating it like a job. We hear that writers need to defend our writing time. We need to take our work seriously so that others will as well. We need to connect to the right readers through the right channels. And of course, we need to be entrepreneurs, learning the business side of publishing if we want to get our books out there.
I get all that. I really do.
We have these beautiful books, these wonderful stories. We know there’s an audience for them out there somewhere. Trouble is, “somewhere” is vast.
If we focus too much on trying to make our books successful, it can wear on us. I’ve seen writers run themselves into the ground by pushing themselves too far, day after day—wondering if there’s just one more thing they can do that day that would be the thing that finally brings on their tipping point. I’ve been that writer.
I hear people talk about wanting to get away from the grind of their day job to do something they love, only to turn that thing they love into a grind.
We’re told to stay hungry and keep going and write fast and write more, even if we’re sick or we’re tired or our lives are filled with stress. Where’s the balance in that? Where is the fun?
When our minds are so full of all this, it can become a toxic pressure. It can make us forget that our stories are a gift, something to be cherished.
The world is filled with conflicting advice on how to make a living as a writer. At this point, I’m more interested in learning how to make a life as a writer. A life that nourishes me and sustains me and makes me happy right now.
Reaching readers—finding my people—I want that, too. But that will take as long as it takes. I’m not going to put off being happy with where my writing is in this moment for some vague future that’s outside of my control.
Writing is absolutely vital to who I am. But it can’t be all that I am. The dream of the writer that I will be someday can’t overshadow the awesome reality of the writer I am right now.
So, I’m putting this out there. What I’ve learned along my own path.
Stay hungry, but don’t starve yourself.
Take your work seriously, but have fun with it.
Treat it like a job, and remember it’s a joy.