When I was in high school, I would fantasize about what my life would be like when I became a real writer. I'd have a fancy house and a live in chef so I could just write all day. Everything would be great and I'd have tons of free time to do anything else I wanted to. It'd be perfect. Now I want to throttle high school me for ever even thinking that.
Writers do not make a lot of money. There are exceptions to every rule and some writers make a lot of money and more make a living. But the truth is most writers have a day job they manage on top of their family and their writing. That writer you see at your local fantasy convention? Probably is out of pocket close to $500 to be there trying to sell you books. This year, 2015, I have made about $100 dollars directly from writing. That's royalties and payment for sold stories or essays. This year has been slowly than normal as I've moved, and had other issues pop up, but I'm nowhere near the make a living on writing boat. I also stopped writing for several months this year. It's tough to balance writing with jobs, families, friends, and general life.
I get up at 5 and write before work. I try to write more when I get home from work. I don't usually go out with friends and I'm woefully behind on TVs, movies and video games. Those are all things I gave up for writing. Would I change that? No. But I wish that I'd been more aware of it from the start. Writing is about more than just getting words on paper. Once those words are down you have to edit, rewrite and then find a home for them.
You're not longer just a wordsmith, but a marketer, promoter, and researcher of markets. When I finish a short story it doesn't magically find a home, I have to look into where to submit it, and then track where I've sent things when. If I submit a pitch I have to make not of who is looking for what and when I sent it. You have to be organized, and thoughtful about what you're doing. Any more there are scams and trouble everywhere just waiting to take advantage of new or inexperienced writers.
Here are just a few of the things I wished more people realized:
1. You Carve Time To Write
Writing time is carved away from time you could be doing other things. That's time with family, friends or things you love. You can't do and be everything while still finding the time to write. it doesn't fall into your lap with a gift wrapped bow. Whether you write every day or in bursts, you have to make that time consciously or it will be filled with other things.
2. It's A Roller coaster
I was totally unprepared for the waiting game and the hecticness that that creates. You finish a project and could then wait years for anything to move forward. Publishing, particularly traditional publishing, moves slowly and has a lot of ups and downs. It's an emotional roller coaster and you need support.
3. Writers Are Good People
The very first few professional writers I meant were kind of jerks and I assumed that's how they all were. I've never been so glad to be proven wrong. Reaching out for help and support from other writers is great. It's nice knowing I have a network of friends who understand and will support me. We're not all competiting with one another and antagonistic to each other.
4. Platform Can Sink You
It's so easy to get wrapped up in the cries of 'You need a platform' that you loose sight of writing. I love social media but it's easy to get awash in the drift of talking about writing, whining about writing, or just tweeting about the latest outrage, and never get anything actually done. Don't sink yourself with your platform, remember to write.
5. More Time Than You Ever Think
I know roughly how many words I write an hour. I can estimate how long a book will take me but that doesn't include the time it takes to hear back from beta readers, agents, editors, etc. It's a challenge to manage your projects when you're not the one in control of the timelines.
At the end of the day though, I wouldn't change anything. Writing is such a part of me I couldn't stop even if I wanted to.