I talked in my last post about what I mean by making a living as a writer, because that phrase means different things to different people. Whatever your definition is of making a living as a writer is, that’s great! You’re the only one who has to be clear on what you mean.
Now, before I start getting into the really practical aspects of making a living as a writer, I’m going to ask you to do a little visualizing. I want you to close your eyes and try to see your perfect writing life. What would it look like?
In this case, I’m not talking about an over-the-top fantasy writing life. I’m not saying, “The dishes will do themselves, and I’ll write one bestselling, award-winning poetry book and picture book after another (in a little writing cottage in the woods on a mountain).” Don’t get me wrong–if that life is offered to me, I’ll take it:>) But what I’m trying to define for myself is an ideal writing life that I think is beyond my reach at the moment, but that I think is at least within the realm of reachability, with the right combination of heart, hard work, and luck.
My Perfect Writing Life
Most days, I get up, take care of my morning routine (a little combo of meditating, affirming, visualizing, reading, and writing morning pages) before breakfast. After breakfast, I go work out. Then I spend 3-4 hours (what a luxury!) working on various trade book projects. I work on a variety of things: poetry, nonfiction, picture books, beginning readers, chapter books, and novels in verse. After lunch, I spend the afternoon on the business side of things: emails, blogging, connecting with educators, talking with my agent and editors, mentoring through Mentors for Rent, doing a bit of freelance copyediting on the side. I’d keep up these side income producing activities because I like them (on a small scale), and they feed a certain part of me. However…I want to be a writer!
In this ideal life, I spend about 2 months a year doing school visits, but I group them into mostly October and April, since I find it more satisfying and less draining (in the long-term) to focus on them and nothing else for chunks of time.
My agent, in my perfect life, regularly submits my work, keeps me informed, and makes sales. I have two books come out each year, one in spring and one in fall (it is much easier to market your book when you only have one new book at a time to focus on!).
Throughout the year, I occasionally speak at large conferences for educators, like ILA, NCTE, and ALA (and publishers pay my travel costs to go speak and represent the publisher and my latest book). I also speak at college children’s literature festivals—I love speaking to teachers and pre-service teachers—their energy is just fantastic. I make the time to speak at writing conferences, too. I’m a teacher at heart, and I really love sharing books, writing, my process, classroom tips, etc. with people who can enjoy and use that info!
I earn most of my income through trade book sales and speaking engagements that are offered to me, so I don’t need to solicit them or freelance work assignments. The ones that come about organically are enough to let me connect with my community of writers, teachers, and kids; supplement my income; and yet not get in the way of my writing (perhaps I’m treading onto fairy-tale territory here).
Although I don’t care about bestseller lists, my books sell well. Yay! That means they’re reaching people, and who doesn’t want that! Recognition from review journals and awards committees is the icing on the cake. But the real pleasure is when, while doing a session at a book festival or something, the room is full of kids who have read one of my books and can’t wait for my storytime or workshop to start!
I keep meeting with my critique group, the Wordsmiths, and writing poetry with the Poetry 7, who push me always. I go on a few short writing retreats every year for 3-4 days to someplace beautiful, like the mountains or the ocean or the North Shore of Lake Superior.
I feel caught up at the end of each day and the end of each work week. I write the books I am longing to write and don’t feel overwhelmed by emails, social media, freelance work, etc. I have a deep sense of joy and gratitude about being able to do what I most want to do–be a writer.
I don’t need to be a millionaire. I do a kazillion different things to meet my income goal right now of $40,000 per year. If I could earn $40,000-$50,000 living the ideal life outlined above, I’d be more than a happy camper–I’d be an ecstatic camper!
This is what MY ideal writing life looks like. Now, what does yours look like? Take some time and actually write it down in your notebook. How much money would you need to earn? What kind of books would you sell? Would you do speaking and other kinds of income-earning work? Or would you just work on your writing and only your writing? Maybe share a couple of sentences in the Comments if you like about your own ideal writing life. I’d love to hear your dreams.
In my next entry, I think I’ll talk about creating a business plan, which is a good first step toward creating your idea writing life.