Own Your Writing Career (Don’t Let It Own You)

Writers, if you need a little lifting up, to know you’re not alone, or just to feel more in control of your writing life, this is the blog series for you. I’m a very small fry in the independentOwn Your Writing Career publishing river. I published my first book in August 2011 (and lurked for ages before that), so I’ve been in on a bunch of the publishing revolution. Over those years and the tremendous change they’ve brought, I’ve gleaned a lot of insight into how to stay happy and productive while hovering in the murky depths (i.e. the bottom of the sales rankings) and wondering just how long it will take your writing career to grow up.

I’m writing this blog series partly because of the point of the independent publishing revolution we’ve reached. Currently, there seems to be a heightened incidence of depression and a feeling of panic as sales fall for some, or never manage to grow for others. Many writers have signed up over the last couple of years for something they never imagined…years and years of hard work before seeing monetary results.

Like any other business, publishing is cyclical, and we’ve reached a nadir in the current cycle that is worrying many authors. The ebook and independent publishing revolution truly changed things…but in 2014 we reached somewhat of a new normal, and it’s a new normal with plenty of free to cheap reading for our best consumers. Great for us as readers; not as awesome as the creators of books. Growth from here will be slower, and the gold rush is over. However, worrying about industry trends isn’t going to help you with your backlist, is it? At this point, I feel a need to encourage writers to keep at it. Those who truly love this lifestyle can own their writing career, and keep their mental health, too.

I’m also writing this blog because I repeatedly get asked certain questions by other authors, by readers, and by family and friends.

Do I make any money at this? is the top question. Not yet. Nothing significant. I basically make coffee money. (And luckily I have a coffee pot at home, and I’ve been making my own iced tea.) But I make a living elsewhere, so don’t worry about me. I’d never be a starving artist, I have kids and I’m far too risk averse. (Says the daytime economist.)

Where do you find the time? I try to waste less, get up early, eat standing up, and don’t work out enough. How’s that for honesty? I’m far from a perfect example. My house could certainly be tidier.

Where can you find time to write between kids and work? I think fast, use my spare minutes wisely, and often write in fifteen or twenty minute chunks spread across my day (which happens to work very well for me creatively).

How do you keep all of your series straight, doesn’t it get confusing? Writer lol; this has just never been a problem for me. If it was, I’d probably write differently and stick to a book or series at a time. But under that schema I’m bored, so instead I’m all over the place, always working on more than one thing.

Where do you get all of your ideas? Um … I don’t seem to be able to stop them. It’s like I turned a spigot on in my brain a few years ago, and there’s no going back. Not that I would. NEVER! *grin*

How do you stay motivated if you’re not selling books? If you have a bazillion books left to write, do you stop because the first few aren’t selling well — YET?!? That’s ridiculous. No artist sells their first work easily. Quit the nonsense and get back to work.

So…yeah, that’s what this series is going to be about. Staying positive, keeping your eyes on the long road, and most of all, getting the job done and having the time of your life while you’re doing it.

I’m also going to try not to pull punches about what I see as writer nonsense. I will not listen to “I don’t have the time to write…how do you make so much time?” Are you kidding me? I have 24 hours a day, just like you. Writing is my priority, because I want to make my living at it, and the sooner the better. If writing is not your priority (shown by how you spend your time, people), that is not my problem. It might be that there are VERY good reasons writing is not your priority. You may have significant life events and such taking up your time, that prevent you spending much time writing. If that’s the case, then I wish you godspeed in clearing the deck for more writing time, and all the best with what you have going on. But please don’t clog up my comments with “I don’t have time.” If you’re reading and commenting on this blog, you have time.

I’ll also back that up with my experience, and acknowledge that we all have different paths to this writer place. We have different lives, different commitments and altogether different goals. No way is better than any other. The key is to find what works for you, and use it consistently to reach your goals. I’m going to explain what works for me and why, in terms of getting my books on the page. And I’ll dive into how I’ve stayed positive and productive for years while not selling. I’ll even talk about my own struggles with staying positive, and how I overcame them by more deeply understanding what I wanted out of my writing career. By OWNING IT.

Let’s start with some questions you can consider until next time. Understanding what is driving you, and where you want to go with it, is key to setting a course for the long term and sticking with it through the darkest of times. (Boy, that sounds dreary. It’s only dreary some days … and parts of other days … and many times in the deep of night when you wake and can’t return to sleep … Don’t worry. It’s not just you.)

So … for your consideration:

Why do you write?

What do you want from writing?

What do you NOT want from writing?

The answers to these questions can help you start to understand the course that might be best for you as a writer. It’s time to OWN IT.

For a full list of Own Your Writing Career posts in the order they were written, visit my Writers page. I’ll be back with another Own Your Writing Career post next Thursday. Until then, happy writing!!

“Own Your Writing Career (Don’t Let It Own You)” copyright © 2015 by J.R. Pearse Nelson

About J.R. Pearse Nelson

J.R. Pearse Nelson is a native Oregonian, residing in the beautiful Portland area. She lives with her husband, two small daughters and the family dog. J.R. is always searching for the magic in our world. She weaves tales rooted in mythology, bringing legend to life in modern-day and fantasy settings. J.R. is the author of the Children of the Sidhe paranormal romance series, the Foulweather Twins fantasy series, and the Water Rites fantasy series. You can connect with J.R. online at her website. Visit jrpearsenelson.com.