|Chasing my OWN dreams is more like downing an Alien Queen |
with a high powered sniper rifle, but you do you.
That is to say that as of this moment (albeit with the help of some pet sitting and a few weekly nanny hours) I am a working writer. A dream that I've had since I was ten years old was realized in the back of Lafayette library over the Google calculator.
But I have yet to change that moment into a lesson for other writers, the demonstration of which is both the real-time mission of this blog, and the answer to what has in recent months become my absolutely most frequent question (now that I am making an amount of money that aspiring writers seem to find enviable): "How can I do what you have done?" or some variation.
And so we call in The Battlestar Didactica. Because there are many copiers. And I have a plan.
I started this blog in early 2012. To reach this point has taken me daily writing and 5-6 posts a week for five and a half years. In my first year, I was thrilled as a pig in clichè to get a check for $106 from Google. That's like the longest fucking unpaid and underpaid internship ever. So don't tell me how lucky I am.
Also, as a white dude from a middle class background, I have a lot of privilege. Everything from a family that had a college background themselves to a situation in which I could afford to make very money for years. Some serious shit has broken my way. So don't not tell me how lucky I am.
My success here has entirely to do with the ballooning numbers on Writing About Writing's Facebook Page. We're approaching 2/3 of a million likes there and some 3k additional "followers," and this blog would have a fraction of the readership without it. I've been putting up something almost every waking hour on that page for four years. Or, to put it another way, it's like having a 10hr/week part time job promoting my writing. ....in addition to the 40+/hours of writing itself.
So I guess I'm making even less per hour.
Conventional wisdom from a lot of successful authors suggests that a well read and reasonably skilled writer who really puts their mind to improving their craft and putting themselves out there can carve out a career doing creative writing in about ten years. That's not a paint by numbers formula or a guarantee, (and it surely won't happen that quickly for the weekend warriors), but it is an average you'll see over and over again if you listen to the right parts of writers' stories. And while some may rewrite that rocking debut novel over and over for most of the ten years while others do a lot of short story writing and submitting with a conscious eye to building their cover letter, the time table seems fairly consistent.
I wish I could tell you about a cool trick I learned. A search engine optimization that cannot be resisted. A way to write once a week and get people to throw money at you. That the SFSU undergrad creative writing program foraged me like steel into a writing machine. I don't know such a trick. If anything I've muddled through that crap and probably ignored a few useful bits of advice in favor of just "pedaling faster" on the writing part. I've been working these last five and a half years. And while one can arguably get to the income part a little more quickly through non-traditional publishing, the predictions for career arcs have me only slightly ahead of the curve. It'll still be years–and probably three or four–before I'm making enough not to have two roommates and skip all holiday plans because that's when other people vacation and need their pets cared for.
Three or four years is my estimate for a very modest living from only writing......which would be right on schedule.
It is an extremely pedestrian experience these days to have people implore me to tell them how they can emulate my success and then argue with me when I tell them to write every day. But I know of no other way.
However, let me also bring glad tidings. I'm a crummy writer who rarely puts in more than an eight hour day and whose productivity tanks when I am working other jobs. The formula is "that hard," but it's also "that easy." Just do it. Writing improves with practice. (Go read some of my writing from 2012 if you don't believe me, and that is after twenty years of practice and a degree in creative writing.) My prose is not that spectacular. I have no particular talent. Everything I've learned, I've only done so by having what doesn't work pointed out to me a thousand times.
I got to this place of extremely tenuous financial solvency not by being the best and certainly not by some "gift." I got here by doing what you're supposed to do for years. I read a lot, wrote a LOT and plowed through by sheer force of will. And in five and a half years of work, here I am. I won't be so dismissive of the world and its myriad obstacles both societal and personal to suggest that if I can do it, anyone can, but what I can repeat from above (in new context) is that there is no trick. The doors will not be barred because one lacks some slight of hand or arcane technique.
I stand here today only because some doof with a dream and an unswerving tenacity can make progress in this business if neither failure nor glacial progress will deter them.