During my time as a Sociology major, I took a few classes that focused on gender and family. In these, we learned about the changing roles of women in society, and how modern women often feel pressure to work a “Second Shift” to fulfill their roles. Decades ago, women only had to focus on being a wife and mother. In modern society, women are still expected to thrive in the domestic sphere–while also holding down a full-time career. In other words, they can (and should, in most people’s opinions) do it all.
But this article isn’t about Feminism and the roles of women. It’s about authors.
Decades ago, the life of the author (or, more accurately, the romanticized view we hold of it) was quite different. You simply jetted off to Paris with Hemingway and Fitzgerald, got rip-roaring drunk, and spouted your brilliance. A publisher then plucked it from your hands and sent it out into the world, where your deserved fame and ample royalties followed.
Again, that’s the romanticized view. But it’s still what a lot of people associate with authorship.
Today, a new author has emerged, of which I am one: the indie author. As an independent author, we are expected to write and edit our own books, format them, design covers, publish, and market. Or, of course, hire professionals to assist us. And until we finally figure out the magic formula to full-time authorship, we have to do all of this while working full-time jobs, maintaining our households, and keeping our social relationships in tact.
In my imagination, the ideal indie author — the person I should be — goes through the day like this:
Wake up at four or five a.m. Devour coffee and write for at least an hour. Go to work (while writing more, reading/listening to books or podcasts, or marketing during the commute). Take a lunch break (with more writing, reading, or marketing). Repeat the commute home. Eat dinner and spend a short amount of time with family. Write until midnight. Sleep four to five hours. Repeat.
Is it just me, or does that sound insanely difficult? I mean, I need my sleep…for everyone else’s safety.
Okay, reality time. That schedule is probably slightly exaggerated. But there are plenty of “famous” indie authors who have done something similar. There’s Hugh Howey, who wrote Wool while working in a bookstore. There’s Joanna Penn, who scaled back her day job to four days a week, gave up television, and got up incredibly early every day to write. Listen to any mainstream self-publishing podcast, and you’ll find the success stories.
That’s what it takes to make it to the big leagues. You’ve got to want it so badly that you make huge sacrifices, that you keep pushing even when you’re exhausted, that you devote daily practice to writing and studying the industry. And for most of us, myself included, just thinking about that kind of rigorous routine — even with our burning desire for its rewards — makes us light-headed. I mean, that’s a lot of pressure.
But that’s the formula for success as an indie author — work hard enough that you make your own luck.
So what do we do?
I guess we figure out how to do it for ourselves. I haven’t quite tackled being super human just yet (I’ll let you know when I do), but I think we start somewhere like this:
- Find the discipline to wake up an hour earlier (or stay up an hour later)
- Find the energy to knock out some words during our lunch breaks or after work
- Remember meeting our goals is more satisfying than another Netflix binge
- Listen to an audiobook or podcast instead of the radio on our commutes
- Turn wasted minutes or free time into time spent being creative
- Cut personal expenses and treats in favor of time off work or business-related costs
- Search out others with the same goal and feed off their determination
- Recognize that we will always have more work to do
- Forgive ourselves when we fall short of our goals
- Keep trying to do better
When I break it down like this, it feels easy — but we all know it’s not.
This is the part where I start to flounder, where I deeply feel my own failings, and where I feel intense pressure to do better. I know what to do, I’m just not sure how to cram it all into my own life. I pump myself up, get into a frenzy of motivation, make progress, then peter out, whether after a day, a week, or a month…
But I’m working on it, and I’ve already seen marked improvements in 2016.
I guess the point of this post is: fellow indie authors, fellow day job grinders, fellow insecure creatives — you are not alone. I’m right there with you, straddling the tightrope between the present and the authorship dreams. And one way or another, we’ll all end up on one side of the rope or the other.
I know which side I want to be on. It’s going to take a few years of penny-pinching and late nights (and getting Daniel through graduate school). It’s not ALL in my hands, but it mostly is, and I’m going to try my hardest to get there.
Where are you right now? And which side will you be on in five or ten years?
If those questions make your chest tight, remember: you’re not alone. And if you need someone to rally around, I’ve got your back.