On Being a Writer and Becoming a Writer
I’m a writer. That’s what I do. That’s what my whole mind is organized around. Even when I’m creating comics or drawing pictures, I put some kind of an inherent story into it. I’ve been doing this as long as I can remember.
Many times I’ve flirted with the idea of going pro, but various things have held me back, usually starting with “money” and moving on from there. But I think it’s time to start heading that way. There are several factors informing this decision:
- First and foremost, people like my work! Which I’m very grateful for, of course. 🙂 More than one publisher has told me, “You write it, whatever it is, I’ll publish it.” That’s… well, for a writer, that’s huge. In books where my stories have appeared, they’ve been singled out for special mention. It would seem, judging purely by external evidence, that my writing doesn’t suck. I should really be doing something with that.
- Second, I’m not getting any younger. I spent the first half of my life waiting for better days, stalling for time, or “looking for the opportune moment.” But I’m running out of wiggle room. If I’m going to do it, I need to do it now before it’s no longer an option. Fortunately, my age is an asset rather than a liability here: I’ve had some life experiences now. I’ve seen things, man, seen some horrible things! Surely this must add depth to my work. And besides, many well-known and popular writers started later than I am… Rex Stout started publishing Nero Wolfe stories when he was 45. If they can do it, I can do it.
- Third, I don’t want to stagnate, creatively. I need to take on new challenges. Writing for free and publishing on the web for anyone and everyone to see is fun, but convincing people to pay you to write? That takes some mad skillz. It’s time for me to level up!
There are things I will have to do in order to make this venture succeed. Most obviously, I need to actually write, more. A lot more. I can’t just quietly putter away at a story for months or years and then leave it in a drawer any more, I need to start, write, and finish things. If an idea doesn’t pan out, I need to shelve it and move on to the next one instead of dithering around on it trying to make it go.
Also, I need to work with a plan. I need to identify markets I want to be in, and go after them. I need to make contacts in the circles I want to be known in, and find ways to be of value there. I am very grateful for the “carte blanche” publishers I’ve mentioned above and I fully intend to work with them, but they are not by themselves enough to make a career, and they don’t cover all the genres I’m interested in working in. I need to find editors and agents and production people and cover artists for works I plan to publish myself. I need to learn the biz hardcore, get serious about accounting and taxes and all the annoying crap that writers hate to deal with but will die if they don’t. I need to make that part of my day-to-day writing activity, instead of something I just turn to reluctantly when I’m forced to.
I have been laying the groundwork for this for a while, actually. One of my writing rules since the end of Suburban Jungle has been, “Know how you’re going to get paid for this.” Every story I’ve written since then (not counting Brigid and Greg Fictionlets, which have a special dispensation) has had a business plan attached, and they’ve all been for money. Not always a lot of money, granted, but the point is that I’ve stopped giving away the store.
So, that’s where I’m headed at the moment. It’s an exciting thing to be really, actually, finally-and-I-mean-it-this-time doing it, but it’s also intimidating. Hiding behind “the day job” has given me something to blame my failures on for all these years. Thinking of myself (and referring to myself) as a professional writer, and treating it like a job instead of a hobby, means that if it goes Pfft! I’ve got nobody to blame but myself.