Author Business & Publishing, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles

Why Do You Write? (An Idea Revisited Two Years Later)

If you’re reading this, I assume you want to be or already are a writer. I also assume that there’s a decent chance you want to be a full-time author. So, if that’s you, let me ask you two difficult questions: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author, when there are hundreds of easier career options?

writing and coffeeNow, your gut instinct is probably something like, “Come on, Kate! Writing is my life. Those questions are so easy!”

But do me a favor and really think about it. I’ll give you a personal anecdote while you ponder your own situation …

After my recent move from New Haven to the Bay Area, I’ve had a difficult time getting back in my creative groove. I have a lot of perfectly valid excuses: organizing the new place, adjusting to a new work and household routine, exploring new shops and landmarks, to name a few. But, I think I finally understand the real issue.

Whenever I meet new people, I introduce myself as a writer. I include my novelist side, but I always admit, with a twinge of unnecessary shame, that my books don’t pay the bills. I’m “really” a copywriter for a wine marketing company (which has actually helped my fiction writing). It sounds super-sexy on paper, and while most of the time I just stare at a computer screen like every other office worker, it is a great job. Though I’m still the lowest rung on the company ladder, I could make copywriting/marketing a long-term career. And I think it would make me happy.

It would be SO. MUCH. EASIER. to just let go of my author ambitions and relax into the 9-to-5 life. I’m NOT saying every 9-to-5 job is easy, and I’m definitely challenged at my work, but giving up the author stuff would relieve me of several challenges. I could stop spending nights and weekends at the computer. I could stop heaping guilt on myself when I don’t meet my creative goals. I could stop spending hard-earned, harder-saved money on editing, cover designs, and marketing expenses. I could stop all the other nuisances of indie authorship and still call myself a professional writer.

Live your dreamBack to you: your situation is obviously much different from mine. Maybe you’re working a job you loathe. Maybe you have tons of extra money to shower on self-publishing. Maybe you view writing solely as a career and aren’t bothered by any of the emotional, passionate aspects.

Still, I ask again: Why do you write? And why do you want to be a full-time author?

(If you’re a fan of the Sterling & Stone trio, you can probably guess that I’m a big believer in Sean’s “Know Your Why” mantra, which this insightful article discusses more eloquently than I can.)

While contemplating this question, I remembered a blog post I wrote over two years ago. It lists the reasons why I write, along with some great additions from fellow writers in the comments. They all still hold true, but they don’t answer why I want to write fiction professionally and not just as a hobby.

After giving it some careful thought and seriously evaluating my larger personal/life goals, here are a few of my reasons:

Writing is my greatest passion.
Writing is my most employable skill.
Creative satisfaction means more to me than conventional success.
I want to be my own boss and set my own working hours.
I want the freedom to vacation when and how I choose.
I want to work be able to work from anywhere in the world.
I don’t want to regularly manage other people.
I don’t want to give up my dream to help someone else achieve theirs.
I love storytelling.
I want the opportunity to make my daily work meaningful and valuable.
I want to entertain, inform, and educate others.
I want to make a difference in the world and provide a source of escape for others.

Conclusion? Being a full-time writer both satisfies my creative passions and provides several practical benefits that “regular” jobs cannot.

If you’re in a similar situation to me (and I know at least one of my friends reading this is), do yourself a favor and ask these questions. You might realize that writing is just a hobby for you — and that is 100% awesome. Or (more likely, I bet), you’ll realize that full-time authorship is really the career you want. If that’s the case, you’ll be armed with a list of reasons to keep you motivated when the going gets tough. And trust me, it will get tough.

But, if you’ve made it all the way to the end of this post, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s also wholly, completely, utterly worth it.


Leave your reasons in the comments and cheer on your fellow authors. If you’re already living the full-time dream, I’d love to hear whether your “why” remains true now that you’ve reached your goal. 

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Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things

My Quarter-Life Revelation, or Enjoy the Journey

My entire life, I’ve looked forward to turning 25.

As a child, I viewed it as the final milestone to reaching “real” adulthood. At 25, you’ve been out of college for three years–long enough to get your life together and know who you are, but not so long that the world has totally beaten you down. You’re old enough to be taken seriously, but not so old that you take yourself too seriously.

However, the closer I got to 25, the more I realized that people this age (at least in my generation) don’t have it all figured out. You see, by the age of 25, my parents owned a successful business, had built their own home (literally, my dad is a carpenter), were married with a three-year-old daughter (yours truly), and carried all the other trappings of “full adulthood.” Me? I’m married (check), but my husband is still in graduate school, we live in a crappy rented apartment, and while I’ve started my own business, I’m nowhere near what most people would consider a success.

But I had a consolation. When the calendar rolled over to my birthday, I would still have something awesome. My quarter-life crisis.

Seriously, no sarcasm. I’m the kind of person who thrives under stress. I love sitting down and analyzing who I am. I adore writing lists and making goals. So, I couldn’t wait to wake up, be racked with healthy nerves, and puzzle out the solution to all my problems.

The only issue? As my birthday dawned, I laid in bed and waited for the crisis to hit. And it never came. By looking for problems with my life, I realized that I’m actually happy.

Honestly, it came as a surprise. Ever since moving to New Haven, all I’ve done is complain about how much I loathe this city. On a weekly basis, I gripe about my commute or my job. Just as often, I’m frustrated with budgetary constraints and my lack of free time. But all of those less-than-ideal circumstances stayed at the surface, and when I dove down deeper, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t find anything really wrong.

A few days later, by pure coincidence, I had to confront this realization again. I have a friend who likes to ask random questions, just as a way of generating conversation and creative thinking, and he asked me to answer yes or no to the following statements: A) I am happy with my life. B) I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do to survive.

I answered yes to both. He called bullshit. And we started a debate.

During this episode, I thought again about all the surface-level problems I face. And you know what hit me? Gratitude.

Yes, Daniel and I live in a crappy apartment in a noisy, dirty city. But we live here together–and after two years of long distance, I am so thankful for that. Yes, I have a long commute and my job is not my dream job. But I can use my commute to read/write, and my job has a lot of cool perks and has paid Daniel’s tuition and all of our living expenses. Yes, living here expensive and our next home might be too. But it’s all temporary while he’s in school. Eventually, we’ll choose an area more suited to our desired lifestyle.

My friend still challenged me. Paraphrasing here: “Sure, you might be content with where your life is, but that doesn’t mean you’re happy. You haven’t reached all your goals.”

No, I haven’t. But if I had achieved everything I want to by age 25, the next 50-plus years would be pretty damn boring.

And that’s when it hit me. My big quarter-life revelation.

Life is about enjoying the journey. I’d heard it before, read it in a thousand cheesy memes, but it had never really sunk in. Is my life perfect? No. But for 25, I’m doing pretty well, and I’m on a trajectory to reach my goals in the future. Somewhere in the last year or two, I’ve stopped agonizing over the past–over the mistakes I’ve made and the things that have hurt me.

At the same time, I’ve stopped looking at the future as something I lack. The future isn’t the lost puzzle piece that leaves my picture unfinished. It’s the landmark in the distance, and while I watch it grow closer, I also get to drive a fun car and rock out to my road trip soundtrack. And when I reach that landmark? I get to enjoy it for as long as I want, then head off for the next adventure.

The final layer of gratitude, the proverbial icing on my revelatory birthday cake, is that I recognize my privilege. I’m so lucky to be in a situation in which my biggest problem is that I haven’t achieved my dream yet. As my friend’s question revealed, I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to for survival. Not everyone is that lucky. Hopefully, by appreciating what I have, writing books that offer escapism or education, and being a more positive, caring person (one of my 2017 goals), I can give a little back to the world and help someone else live better.

So that’s what I’m taking into my 25th year: forgiveness of the past, appreciation for the present, optimism for the future, and compassion for others. I only hope that I’m blessed enough to receive the lessons of ages 50, 75, 100, and all the years in between.

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Recapping My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

Before the calendar officially rolls over into 2017, I want to share my progress on my 2016 New Year’s resolutions. While I surpassed my “realistic” goal of accomplishing half of my list, I still left seven resolutions unfinished. Some of these were conscious choices, others resulted from procrastination or neglect. However, each taught me valuable lessons that I’ll be carrying into 2017.

Writing

Writing with Thomas

1. Write five days a week (C, but based on past experience, LOL)

I had an epiphany this year – I don’t have to write every day. And, given my current situation in life, it’s almost impossible for me to write new material while editing/revising a completed manuscript. Next year, my goal will be to “create” five days a week (be it writing or editing). However, I did some form of creation for roughly half of the days in 2016, so that’s better than my past records.

2. Finish Desertera #2 (E)

3. Publish Desertera #2 (C)

4. Write Desertera #3 (DD)

At least I’ve started it!

5. Publish Desertera #3 (DD)

If I would have taken into account how much time my nonfiction projects would consume, I would have known this was unobtainable (aka LOL) for 2016.

6. Write a book for fun (LOL)

LOL indeed!

7. Write all nonfiction booklets (E)

8. Publish all nonfiction booklets (E)

9. Publish nonfiction compilation (C)

Business

Boxthorn Press Logo10. Publish two blog posts per week (C)

11. Read 50 books (C)

12. Make $1,000 from my author business (C, maybe DD)

13. Adhere to my marketing plan (C)

Started off strong, but petered out in the second half of the year. Takeaway: I need to refine my marketing goals and make a less time-consuming plan.

14. Send two email newsletters per month (C)

15. Update my author website/platform (revise each quarter) (E)

Personal

Family16. Keep Daniel and myself student loan free (DD)

17. Keep migraines to one per month (or less!) (DD) – Perhaps my best accomplishment of all!

18. Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 days a week (LOL)

We did really well for a few months … but not enough.

19. Record my three daily gratitudes (C)

Barely managed this. I think I’ll be letting go of journaling in 2017.

20. Visit a new state (E)

21. Go to the 9/11 Memorial in NYC (E)

We decided to wait on this one until our parents visit in the spring.

22. Visit home (summer) (C)

23. Visit home (Christmas) (E)

Final count: 16/23

I’ve kept this recap short and sweet, but if you want to a more in-depth reflection, check out this post. And yes! I am making resolutions for 2017 – you can read them here!


Did you accomplish all of your 2016 New Year’s resolutions? What did you learn from your successes and failures this year? Share in the comments!

Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

My First Anniversary as an Author-Entrepreneur

Holding my book for the first time!

Although I wrote my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter (Desertera #1), nearly two years ago, this month marks the anniversary of its publication and what I consider to be my first year as a published author and entrepreneur. Is the writing life everything I thought it would be? Yes and no.

Before choosing independent publishing, I did extensive research into the field. I knew that one book (or two, or ten) is not enough to make a full-time living as an author. I held no illusions about being a break-out success or breaking even on my initial investment in one year (Across industries, small businesses take an average of five years to earn a profit.). While some authors reach these milestones within the first year, and while I have tallied many of my own proud accomplishments, short-term success has never featured in my goals. I’m lucky enough to be in a position where I can build my author career slowly. Currently, I’m 24 and a half years old. I want to be a full-time author on my 30th birthday. I think that is realistic and obtainable.

At this point, my career as an author-entrepreneur must be my second financial priority. With my husband in graduate school, I am the primary breadwinner for our family, and my day job must come first. In order to continue publishing books, I make sacrifices and set aside a budget for publishing expenses. Sometimes I miss those little luxuries (like binge-watching Netflix all Saturday, or dyeing my hair every three months), but the short-term sacrifices are worth the long-term gain. If I’ve learned anything from being an author-entrepreneur, it’s how to think days, months, and years into the future simultaneously.

writing-fuel
Chai tea = writing fuel

When I first declared myself an author and established Boxthorn Press, I focused heavily on blogging and bringing together a supportive community of writers and readers. I cannot recommend this highly enough. Through writing and reading blogs, I’ve made some of my best friends, as well as many valuable business connections. I still want to provide helpful posts and engaging content for my fellow writers and readers, though I’m starting to realize that my blog needs to take a backseat to creation. Over time, my posting schedule has declined from five days a week to three to two, and I think this has been a healthy shift for my productivity.

Perhaps the most difficult experience I’ve had as a writer is dealing with criticism. I know my books aren’t perfect. On the fiction front, I have a long way to go as a storyteller (If I didn’t, that wouldn’t make for a very fun career!), and I’ll be the first to admit that my nonfiction booklets have been crafted on a shoestring budget. I know everyone will not like, understand, or appreciate my art, and negative attention is the price of exposure. Bad reviews and hurtful comments only strengthen my own self-doubt and internal editor, but luckily, I have the perfect antidote …

You. My readers and writing friends who are reading this right now. If you had told me one year ago the amount of support and encouragement and caring I would receive from the outside world, I would have laughed. But it’s entirely true. My readership is small but mighty. Those who enjoy my novels (and booklets) have shown an outpouring of support in reviews, social media shout-outs, and yes, monetary support. Without all of you, I would have a damn difficult time blocking out those negative voices and zero chance of achieving my dream of full-time authorship within the next five and a half years. So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Without spoiling my 2017 New Year’s Resolutions, I want to wrap up this post by addressing my goals for the future. My creative mentor (from afar, that is), Joanna Penn, talks about measuring your life in Olympic periods (and writes an inspiring reflection post each year). If you judge your progress by one year, it may not seem like a lot has happened. However, over the course of four years, so much more can change.

second-book
Finishing my second book (aka the first is not a fluke!).

From late 2016 to late 2017, I want to focus on creation and diversification. I’ll put out a new book (hopefully two!) in the Desertera series, but I’d also like to expand the novels I have into audiobooks and perhaps foreign translations. At the same time, I’d like to start planning and writing my second series in the background, so that it is ready to publish when it is time to wrap up Desertera. With my nonfiction, I hope to begin a full-length book and perhaps diversify the products I already have.

Over the next Olympic period? I’d like to have two complete fiction series under my belt and available in all English formats (ebook, paperback, and audiobook) and perhaps another language or two in ebook format. I would also like to have two or three full-length nonfiction books, so that other writers can learn from my mistakes and accomplishments. I’d also like to expand my author-entrepreneurship into other avenues, such as course creation, author services, or perhaps something more social like podcasting. Hopefully, Boxthorn Press will be making a profit and heading to a place in which it can replace my day job.

You know what the craziest part is? I don’t think this is all a pipe dream. I’ve researched the industry, studied successful indies, crafted a basic financial plan, and have picked apart my every strength and weakness. While success is not fully in my power (I’m still beholden to my readers, after all.), I hold 90% of the cards. If I keep learning and working, I know I can make my dream a reality.

Two years ago, I started scribbling down an outline in a notebook and praying that I could achieve my biggest dream of writing a novel. One year ago, I hit the publish button and achieved my new biggest dream of becoming a published author. Today, I’m telling you that I want to achieve my newest biggest dream of being a full-time author by age 30.

Can I do it? Well, stick with me and let’s find out together.

Fiction Blog, Musings & Bookish Things, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

My 2016 New Year’s Resolutions

I love making New Year’s resolutions. If I were to claim two nerdy, organizational hobbies, they would absolutely be making lists and setting goals. There is something so intrinsically satisfying about writing down meaningful objectives and then crossing them off, knowing that your life is incrementally better for it. Needless to say, I’m stoked it’s that time of year again.

In our household, we follow my husband’s New Year’s resolution tradition. His rule is that you make one resolution for every year you have been alive. Last year, I made 22 goals and accomplished 11 of them. While I do have a few regrets about how I managed my time, overall, I am fairly satisfied with what I accomplished. If you’d like a good chuckle (I certainly had one looking back), you can see my 2015 resolutions here.

Anyway, now on to 2016. Like last year, I’ve categorized my goals by the facet of my life to which they belong. However, for a bit of fun, I’ve also added new difficulty levels. E for easy, C for challenging, DD for damn difficult, and LOL for, well…you get the idea.

Here’s to hoping I can hit over half of these 23 bad boys.

WRITING

1. Write five days a week (C, but based on past experience, LOL)

2. Finish Desertera #2 (E)

3. Publish Desertera #2 (C)

4. Write Desertera #3 (DD)

5. Publish Desertera #3 (DD)

6. Write a book for fun (LOL)

7. Write all nonfiction booklets (E)

8. Publish all nonfiction booklets (E)

9. Publish nonfiction compilation (C)

BUSINESS

10. Publish two blog posts per week (C)

11. Read 50 books (C)

12. Make $1,000 from my author business (C, maybe DD)

13. Adhere to my marketing plan (C)

14. Send two email newsletters per month (C)

15. Update my author website/platform (revise each quarter) (E)

PERSONAL

16. Keep Daniel and myself student loan free (DD)

17. Keep migraines to one per month (or less!) (DD)

18. Exercise for 30 minutes, 3 days a week (LOL)

19. Record my three daily gratitudes (C)

20. Visit a new state (E)

21. Go to the 9/11 Memorial in NYC (E)

22. Visit home (summer) (C)

23. Visit home (Christmas) (E)

And that’s all, folks. Feel free to cheer me on in the comments (I need all the encouragement I can get!), or during my monthly updates, which I intend to keep posting. I’d also love to hear YOUR New Year’s resolutions and other goals. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few tips on crafting realistic, attainable New Year’s resolutions.

Most importantly…happy New Year!