Friday, August 03, 2012

Progress Report, Part Deux

When we last left our heroine, she had made a resolution to stop taking her writing "so damn seriously" and get back to where it was fun again.

What this translated to, of course, was Making Money With My Writing--or, Writing For Pay, versus Writing For Love.

Do not kid yourself. There are times when they ARE the same thing...but not nearly as often as some people would lead you to believe.
UNLESS you are not a novelist by trade and inclination.
If you love nonfiction, as in reportage, true crime, biographies, can write for money and love and the two merge all the time.

But if you do not love nonfiction--and I do NOT--they are almost NEVER the same unless you are among the rarefied people who hit a fabulous harmonic convergence in which an editor wants precisely what you've submitted, precisely when you submitted it, falls in love with it, and--it sells.
And sells.
And sells.

For all the rest of us, however, it ain't such a charmed existence. And that can turn into a real grind.

However, sometimes life (or God) does for you what you cannot do for yourself.

Just when I had reached a point where, by putting together several steady clients, I was going to bring my freelancing income to the point where it would equal that of of full-time employment, the BIGGEST cash cow of those sources cancelled their contract with me. 
They cited my error rate, which was a joke; a couple of us did some calculations and figured my error rate was probably less than 2% overall (some sources say less than 1%), so I suspect there were other monetary reasons for their pullout.

First, I was stunned, and more than a little hacked off.
Then, I said, "Oh-oh. Now I have to get another cash cow."

Until I stopped myself and realized that was precisely the problem.

Don't get me wrong. This particular contract was lucrative. Sometimes I made $100 a day with it.
However, this was also with working, sometimes, well into the night to complete as much work for these people as possible. I did regular stints of being at the keyboard past 10:30 or even 11 PM.

Now if I'm at the keyboard at that hour doing MY OWN writing...that's another story entirely. :-) I've had times when I went to bed so jazzed that, if it had been physically possible to stay up all night and continue without doing myself harm, I would have injected whatever stimulant was necessary to keep writing all night long with clarity and productivity.

But doing proofreading of executive bios and/or article pieces, many of them written by people who can't be bothered to check that they've spelled the person's name right from word 1 to word 200 of the piece...which then the EDITOR gets blamed for missing?

Trust me. That's not the kind of thing you self-inject to keep doing all night. :-)

So the conclusion out of this is that, clearly, this was not what God put me on earth to do.
To which part of me says, "Duh. Of course not."
But I did not allow myself to let that painfully obvious fact matter. Because, you see, as an Adult...a Grownup...
I had to Make Money and Pull My Own Weight.
Which meant that, in effect, I had to become the major breadwinner, because I was just that before my full-time gig dropped me.
Which meant any paying gig that disappeared was a disaster.

Then I looked at how I'd been working, what I'd been feeling, and how much fun I wasn't having. And the loss of that gig turned into a relief.

You see, the main reason I was pushing so hard to Do The Mature Thing with my writing was to keep my house. But even as hard as I was working...I wasn't making enough money to do that.

We won't be able to keep my house. We're putting things in boxes, we're getting ready for a garage sale, and it's all over but the official foreclosure and sheriff's sale.

Which means I've lost heaven knows how many months of happy writing time and worn myself to the bone...only to have that sacrifice not do what it was intended to do.

Yes, it paid some bills.  A LOT of bills.
It just didn't pay the biggest one that mattered. The one I was trying so hard to keep afloat by working myself 14 hours a day.

So I paused, sat back, and reconsidered what kinds of writing gigs and editing gigs would be more rewarding for me, in EVERY sense of the word. I'm making progress on this resolution. I think. I'm not where I want to be yet. But I think I may get there by the end of the year.

Now, I'm starting to do much more BOOK editing, which is at least partially "what God put me on this earth to do." It's certainly not the be-all and end-all. But I'm very, very good at it, and it beats the heck out of proofreading endless bios.

Now, I have two clients who are using me for coaching and editorial consulting. Which is even MORE of "what God put me on this earth to do." 
(And it pays better than almost any proofreading job, anywhere.)

I did have a chance to put together a sample lesson for an online educational source, which is something I THOUGHT was "what God put me on this earth to do"...
...only to imitate precisely the tone and depth level they gave me in their training materials,
and then be rejected because my stuff sounded like too much "fluff."
So there is no teaching gig on the horizon for me with that organization...which was going to be one of the few places I would be able to teach writing without going and getting an MFA behind my name just to prove to some college board that I know what I'm doing.

That would have been a nice cash cow, even if it didn't pay off for a year or more, which it probably wouldn't have. Not $100 a day, certainly. But not bad for what they were proposing their instructors do.

But bottom line?
I'm still a novelist.
My first love is still fiction.
Of all kinds, from the paper back romance and mystery to the made-for-TV movie.
I love STORY.
That's what this blog is ultimately about, as you see on the tag line at the top of the page.
That is actually what I believe I'm "put on this earth to do."
The question is, how far do I step out on the ledge at this point...
...where do I draw the line on what not to apply for, versus what I CAN do comfortably and still make decent money...
...and whether the money really needs to be as plentiful as I thought it needed to be.

One of the blessings of this house thing, if we work it out right, will be that we simplify and weed out. Right now, some stuff is still going to a storage locker, but I anticipate a lot more tossing, giving away, and garage-sale-ing than storing.
I had already started to sort things during Lent, when I tried the "40 Bags in 40 Days" challenge. I didn't quite make 40 bags and boxes...but I did 25. Not all bad.

But the key to this will be...the simpler our lives can end up, the less cash we'll actually need to survive.
If that number gets low enough...I may be able to write for love, AND money...
and not have to burn myself out 14 hours' a day worth in the process.
I can't believe that's "what God put me on this earth to do."

The end goal, of course, is to support myself by writing novels.
That isn't anywhere close yet.
But that doesn't mean I have to stop believing in it and stop giving time to it...which I had.
I think I owe myself, and God, better than that.

One final note on the final resolution--about the "contrarian" in me--in Part Three of this.
(Don't worry. THAT part's gonna be short. <G>)

More to come,


Patty said...

I so feel you on this! When I was single, I lived the simplest life possible to allow me to write. I was happy. I lived on very little, but who needed more space? Now, as a mom and wife, we still live very simply to keep me home writing. Everyone else has more, but no one else gets to stay home and write novels... I wish you great success in your writing, AND in your scaling back to make that happen!

Renee said...

Well, my goodness, I have even more insight into you than I did. I knew you were busy but this...Wow! You sound like an amazing woman. I'll pray for you about all these decisions and changes you have to make. Looking forward to a long and productive relationship with you.