It really doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was sitting in my living room writing a pros and cons list of not renewing my dayjob contract.
Pros included lots of time writing, a chance to focus on my craft and really build up my backlist, doing what I love, not waking up to an alarm every day, having flexibility in my schedule
Cons: no guaranteed income, decreased socialisation (increased isolation, possibility of depression), high possibility of “failure” and having to return to work in 2017
Dream job vs. ability to afford the dream job is essentially what it came down to.
Fortunately, my family and my partner were incredibly supportive and encouraged me to take the leap.
Now, 12 months later, I get to evaluate my position, determine my plans for next year, and decide what I’m going to do differently.
Since I was having trouble coming up with questions for myself to gauge how the year went, I put out a request for questions and got some real thinkers to consider, so thank you for the ideas!
So here we go: My first year full-time authoring
What is your fave, and least fave, aspect of working from home?
My favourite aspect is the comfort. For the first four months, it was amazing to wake up without an alarm (usually around 7:30) and get to work by 8, working until 5 or 6, or whenever I finished my tasks for the day. I’ve always been good at self-discipline, so that’s only ramped up over the last year.
My fiancé moved in with me at the end of February and I had to adjust to waking up to an alarm again (yuck), but now we get up at 5:20, and I’m at work by 6am, going until 2 or 3, usually. The hours are early, but it’s still 100% organized and prioritised by me, and I love that control.
I also enjoy that I can go out for coffee or lunches with friends in the middle of the day without having to account to anyone but myself and my deadline. The freedom is something I’m grateful for every single day.
On the other hand…
I’m always home. Because money has been very tight this year with only bringing in book money (not including rent, because again, my incredibly supportive partner wants me to succeed in this), I have freedom to go for all the walks I want and take all the breaks I need, but I have to budget every single penny. That means I’ve had to cut down my social life significantly. Every coffee is a debate of whether the cost is worth it.
It means I’ve lost touch with a lot of people I would normally have been seeing a lot of. This has affected my social life (though, thankfully, not my established friendships, which are as strong as ever), and also my local marketing, as my network has slipped out of my hands a little bit.
Do you find it easier, or harder, to be creative when it is now your only job?
This question in particular has plagued me the last couple of months, and it’s only in the last week or two that I’ve approached the end of the tunnel – for now. At first, the creativity came as easily as ever. Things were new and exciting, and I had a schedule all planned out that was going to set up my year.
Then Bladelore got delayed from a March release to a June release and everything kind of went to hell. Sales dropped, I was stressing about the gap in releases between books 2 & 3 and working to reschedule my plans for the rest of the year. The shift meant my deadlines were more critical than the art, and that was reflected in the quality of my earlier drafts.
Now that I’ve got things settled and in a new routine, I’m starting to find the love of my art again, and I wake up looking forward to tackling the next outline or edit. It’s something that’s always in flux, but I’ve learned how important it is to take stock of my situation and remind myself why I’m doing this.
That being said, now that writing is my job, I do find myself in need of a new creative outlet. Something I can do when I’m not at my desk working. A break from the voices in my head. Right now, I’m split between my colouring books and getting back into my cross-stitching.
Did anything unexpected come from your move to full time authoring? Something you really never expected or guessed at.
Two big things, I think.
The first is that I expected my publishing schedule to speed up now that I had more time to work on things throughout the day. I figured that with no much extra time, I could do everything.
That turned out not to be true. With the extra time, I can fit more into my day, but I also have the time to slow down and focus on quality. So I’m still publishing at almost the same rate as before, but with more time at the beginning for outlining and at the end for proofreading, and hopefully that comes out in the final product.
The other unexpected discovery is how much I love accounting. I kept trackers from the beginning, but never really liked the way they were set up and had a hard time keeping on top of them. Finally, over the summer, I met with an accounting student friend of mine, and he helped me understand some of the basics. I went home, crafted a spreadsheet, and now I can see all my income and expenses and how much I spend on book production over the course of the month, and…. yeah. I always knew (and appreciated) how much of a nerd I was, but this year kind of cemented that for me.
(While the above is true, I think a third real answer is that I knew but didn’t know how many facets of the business there was until I started really paying attention. I learned a lot this year, but I still have so much more to learn as I move forward)
How do you cope with the distractions?
I’m sorry, what? I was playing some Spider Solitaire…
I cope with distractions by allowing them to happen. My brain can only focus on one task for so long, and I find that if I force myself to stick with it longer than it wants to, the quality of my work goes down, as does morale. So if I find myself slipping, I switch to a game of Spider. A few minutes of that, and I’m refreshed enough to go back to the task. It makes the day go by faster, and I find I need fewer long breaks, because I get by with a bunch of short ones.
To compare your output for an employer to your output as an entrepreneur, is there more overtime, or less hours devoted to your craft?
When I first started full time, there was so much overtime. So much. I was easily working 10-12 hours a day, sometimes 14 near a deadline.
Then my partner moved in and sort of put a stop to that, thank goodness, or I don’t think I’d be the well-adjusted (*snort*) person I am right now.
Does that mean fewer hours for writing? I actually don’t think so. If I look at my agenda for the last year, it seems that I’ve been good about being steady with my words. When I’m drafting, I don’t usually put anything else in my schedule. I wake up, start writing, and keep writing until the draft is done. Then I switch to edits, which is when I also do most of my admin work, because it’s a nice brain break from tearing my work apart.
At no point this year have I really felt creatively stunted, which has been an incredible change. When I worked at my dayjob, I would have these overwhelming moments of “I need to write. I need to get words down on the page RIGHT NOW”. Now, when I have those moments, I just can. It’s incredible.
What, if anything, would you have done differently this year if you were to do it over?
I don’t know the answer to this question yet. I made mistakes, absolutely, but I learned from them, so I wouldn’t want to not do them, even if they were expensive (courses that really didn’t come to anything, contracting work that didn’t pay off). I think it’s more likely that a year from now I’ll realize something I should have started in my first year that it never occurred to me to do, and then I’ll wish I changed things.
I do wish I’d made a bit more of an effort to keep in contact with people locally. Maybe attended more cons and events. I wish I’d taken more time for myself, up at my family cottage, away from my computer. I really wish I’d taken the opportunity to go for more mid-day walks just to get out of the house and enjoy a change of scenery. But in the scheme of things, I’m happy with how the last 12 months have gone.
You going to continue with the full time author gig?
I plan to give it another 12 months and see how I go.
The world is always changing, and I don’t know how those changes will affect my situation, so I’m happy to keep my plans short-term, but as it stands now (again, thanks to all the support in my life), I’m ready to take another leap.
Hopefully next year I’ll learn even more. I want to brush up on my marketing skills and learn some graphic arts basics so I can be more help to my cover artists than “That’s pretty”, and constantly learn more about my craft and business.
Has it been worth it?
Undoubtedly, unequivocally, yes.
I’ve learned so much about myself in the last 12 months that I never would have learned working for someone else. I learned that my self-discipline wasn’t just something I squeezed in between other responsibilities, but is something that I’m quite good at. I’ve learned how to motivate myself and rely less on external carrots to keep myself going. I’ve learned how to slow down so that I can gear myself up when it matters.
I haven’t had a single day where I’ve been stuck on the living room floor because my back was in so much pain due to stress.
I’ve learned how to have fun again, and I hadn’t realised how much I missed it.
In September/October, this might have been a different post. I was feeling really down about things and discouraged that I hadn’t moved forward as much as I had hoped to this year. But the fact is I did make progress and created new targets for me to hit next year.
Success won’t come overnight, but I’ve proved to myself I’m willing to work for it and that lesson means more to me than however much I earned.
To anyone considering the same kind of leap, don’t make the decision lightly, but do consider it. Like is too short to spend time doing things that make you miserable. It might take a while to get on your feet, and you might need to think more creatively than you ever have for ways to get your business started (and you might stumble a couple of times before you find your footing), but in the end it’s worth it to say that you gave it a shot.
The final question didn’t have anything to do with writing, but I figured I’d answer it anyway, because why not?
A nice slow cooker recipe?
Tis the season for chili, amirite? My best friend gave me this one years ago, and it’s a favourite at home. Yum yum!