I am a writer. I love stories. And characters. And bringing worlds to life with my words.Magic and fantasy and characters with starlight in their veins and voices in their heads and dreams of escape and freedom.
But writing stories takes time.
I’ve spent the last nine months working on a novel, and I only have the first six chapters done. It could easily take years to have a completed draft. And even when I have a finished product, it isn’t likely to make much money, if any.
My point is, I don't want to rely on writing as my only means of financial support. Like anyone with a creative passion or skill, I want to still enjoy it in five years, or ten. I want to still have fun writing the quirky characters I hear in my head and not be so burnt out by trying to make money that their whining gives me a headache.
But I also don't want to have some boring menial job that is draining and difficult and keeps me from having the energy to write. I'm sure any writer or artist or creative has had the same problem.
So how you become a successful writer? How do you begin to gain the experience you need while making enough money to support yourself without getting burned out?
I've been trying to figure this out in the months since I graduated, and I've settled on two possible ways (though of course there are more) that I'm going to try.
1. Combining Passions With Writing
In my last semester at college, my teacher arranged a video conference with one of his self-published author friends so the class could hear from someone in the industry. She had a lot of practical advice about marketing and publishing and what not to do, but the thing that stuck with me most was her day job.
She was an archeologist. An archeologist who wrote a sci-fi fantasy series about a protagonist who shared her profession. With aliens. And magic.
She combined two things that she loved, archeology and storytelling. Her day-to-day work inspired her writing, rather than sapped energy from it.
Ever since then it's seemed like the perfect life. Having two passions the compliment each other so well. I'm sure there are a few artists and writers who would agree.
But maybe, like me, you are having trouble figuring out such a perfect balance of careers. I'm not skilled or interested in anything so specialized or cool as archeologist. I don't know about your passions, but for me Aikido, horseback riding, and hiking pay even less than writing.
While it would be nice to just be able to ride horses along rugged Arizona mountain trails, or practice in the dojo full time, and write stories inspired by my other passions, it isn't really feasible right now.
2. Technical vs Creative
For me, there are two sides to writing, to any creative or artistic endeavor, really.
The first is the creative energy that goes into it. This is the raw ideas. The character design, photo idea, or plot. The dialogue between characters, that contrasting personality or great plot twist. The world building and magic system and color palette.
The second is the skill. The final draft. The grammar and punctuation and line-art and final, edited product. Taking the creative idea and making it into something amazing.
I don't know if anyone else agrees, but for my process, the creative idea is always the hardest part. The skill is easy. I know how to write. I know grammar. I know editing. I know how to make sentences flow better, how to make something succinct and tight and easy to read. It's knowing what to write that's difficult.
So, perhaps a job focused around the technical skill of your chosen creative passion, such as an editor, could be a way to conserve creative energy while still developing something that you can use.
I'll let you know if it works out. Because that's exactly what I'm trying right now.
But you don't have to go to the trouble of building a whole freelance business like I am. (And believe me it is a lot of trouble). There are plenty of other writing opportunities that you can find with just a bit of research. Article or content writing for companies such as hubshout.com, or freelance platforms such as fiver or Upwork can be a great place to start.
I'm choosing to edit stories because that's what I'm passionate about (though it took me a long time to figure that out weirdly enough), but you could also edit business content for websites, email, or social media. Whatever works for you, whatever will give you the security and time to keep writing. Because that's, ultimately, what's important.
3. Just Write
I went to school for four years to learn how to write. I'm beginning to think someone should have taught me how to be a writer.
It's possible to be successful. Thousands of writers have done it, and all of them have taken different paths. There's no one way. There is no right way.
Maybe right now I don't have the experience. (If you couldn't tell, this is my first ever blog post.) I'm sure I've made mistakes. I'm sure I could do better. There's a lot I don't know. Like marketing a book and the ins and outs of the publishing world.
But I have a desire to learn. And maybe that's the most important thing.
I'm starting this blog in the hopes that I can find some answers. Start writing, even if, at first, I don't get paid for it. I hope to keep it focused around writing and art and storytelling, perhaps with some fiction stories and real-life craziness thrown in. Maybe it won't go anywhere. Maybe it will.
Because the bottom line is to never stop writing. Or drawing. Or taking pictures. Or making movies. Never stop doing what you love.
It sounds easy, doesn't it?
About the Author
Megann is an editor, writer, and artist specializing in fantasy, science fiction, and basically anything with magic. Or dragons. Or starlight and spaceflight and gods that walk the worlds. She has a children's book published titled Bellow of the Beast, and she is in the middle of writing her first fantasy novel, Soot of the Stars.