About one week and one day ago, I became a full-time writer.
This past year, I found myself in the very best of problematic situations – having two jobs I loved, but enough time to do only one. I’ll miss my college students more than I can say, but in the end, writing was the best choice for me in terms of flexibility, long-term sustainability, and, yes, even income. So at the end of the year I packed up the office I’d spent so many wonderful years in, boxing up hundreds of books I’d collected during five years of grad school and five more years of work, and lowering my hard-earned diplomas from their places on the wall.
Now, every weekday, four hours are dedicated to writing books and preparing them for publication.
Feeling like a “real” writer has crept on me slowly, so quietly that it’s hard to pinpoint when I felt the title really fit me. (I do know for sure it wasn’t when I published my first book, or even when I started earning money.)
When I started testing out the title, telling people, “I’m a writer,” it felt like a terrifying leap of faith. It felt like a commitment to something I wasn’t sure I could follow up on, a promise of some brilliance I knew I hadn’t uncovered, nor was I sure I ever would.
Now, with six books published (three under a pen name,) I’ve instilled in myself a sense of expertise, of “knowing the ropes,” of familiarity with the roller-coaster ride that is drafting, editing, and publishing a book. But as I settle into this new career, I keep reminding myself to be careful. As much as outlines are essential, deadlines are helpful, and polished books are absolutely necessary, being a working writer is, and always will be, about something completely different.
I started this work because it helped me in a way that nothing else could. Even though my hard work and dedication has turned that hobby into a career, I know now more than ever that every book I write has to be born of excitement and love. You see, in my best writing experiences, I feel like the story is a train I’m chasing around and around my brain, trying to look at the car that represents each character, plot point, or theme in every way possible, and grab onto it long enough to translate that into words. Sometimes it’s a smooth ride, other times it’s fraught with obstacles. No matter what, I can’t really relax until I’ve managed to write the story well enough to wrestle that train to a stop.
That feeling is the reason I became addicted to writing, and now that creating stories is my job – my real, honest-to-God paying profession –I’m determined never to let it go. It’s what keeps me going, and I know my readers can tell that I genuinely love each book I put out into the world. The connection between author and story translates into something that, in turn, connects the reader to the writer.
So, as I begin my life as a working writer, I’m making a promise to myself and to anyone who reads my work: I will never publish anything that I didn’t work on as hard as I could, that I didn’t believe in, that I didn’t love. Otherwise, to me, no other perk of the writer’s life I’ve worked so hard to build is worth it.
I’m so grateful to all of you for coming along for the ride.