What Being a Full-Time Writer is Really Like
There are some things I wish I know before I decided to try my hand at this writing gig, although I doubt I would have don’t anything different. While none of the things on my list are deal-breakers, knowing them would have been nice.
Writers spend more hours working than just eight. And we don’t get holiday pay. Most people think we spend hours contemplating life and like an hour writing. Or they believe we are hunched over a computer all day long well into the night. I can tell you the latter is closer to the truth. All writers have a different process, but one thing is universal, the need to tell the story, and more times than not, that consumes us.
Hygiene isn’t always a priority. When we’re in the middle of a large project, showering isn’t at the top of the to-do list. Like I said in the paragraph above, we bury our heads inside the story and don’t come out until we type the end, or we’re exhausted. Most days, I dress like I’m recovering from a hangover because I’m too busy to care.
We’re always thinking about writing, even if we’re not writing. Like. All. The. Time. It’s nice being able to take time off whenever we want, but we never really do. Our brains are always powered on.
Most of us don’t make as much money as you might think. And we work twice as hard. I’m self-published, almost exclusively. Because I write a lot of series, self-publishing is a bit more lucrative. Those of us who make a living are doing it by income streaming and gig work. We freelance, write fiction, articles, deliver groceries and restaurant food, create and teach courses, and substitute teach. I’ve done most of these things. I’m lucky because the one that makes me the most money is my fiction, but that’s not usually the case for most.
Full-time writing isn’t about writing at all. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s about writing, but it’s also about a million other things. At least half of a writer’s time is spent marketing, interacting with other people, finding the right cover designer or editor, or trying to navigate seller sites. I could list a bunch of other things. It seems as if the list is endless.
Deadlines suck. Some of us are motivated by them, while others, like myself, get stressed. No matter what they still suck because they mean our idea of relaxing with our art is a pipedream—no mountain cabin with enough coffee and computer space to last through that great American novel for us. Even self-published writers have deadlines. We have to get the book to our editors so our marketing plan will work.
Working from home is like traveling down a road with potholes. What I mean by this is that I have to leave my phone in another room, or I’ll end up running errands from my mom or talking to one of my best friends for hours that I don’t have. Answering is a pothole I can’t always afford. Not setting a schedule and sticking to it is another pothole because it usually means I’m not respecting my job as a writer, and if I don’t, neither will anyone else. No schedule equals pothole. Even working around my filth is a pothole. If I don’t clean my house regularly and the dirt piles up, I have a difficult time focus on the project. Potholes are different for everyone and we pretty much all have them, even if you're not a writer.
Writing might be a solo endeavor, but we get lonely from time to time. I’m an introvert. I think it’s safe to say most writers are, although certainly not everyone. Writers know how important human interaction truly is. When the country went on lockdown back in March, I had been used to self-isolation by then. Easy-peasy as far as I was concerned. The fact is, even those of us who’ve been self-isolating for years, need a phone call on occasion.
We love our readers, and not because they are our bread and butter. All that enthusiasm for the next books gets us going. It’s infectious. I’m always eager to publish the next book when a reader asks me about an upcoming book’s release date.
The last one is probably the most important. At least for me. While I seem to have an endless supply of ideas and that fuels the will to write (either that or go insane), the authoring part of writing is the most difficult in some respects. Publishing a book is not as simple as turning it over to a publisher or hitting the upload button. Whether you have a publisher to do all the work for you or you’re like me and do all the work yourself, you still have to work with an editor and market your book (Nope. A publisher does very little most of the time.). The small interactions with readers make all the hard work worth it.
April Kelley is an author of LGBTQ+ Romance. Her works include The Journey of Jimini Renn, which was a Rainbow Awards finalist, Whispers of Home, the Saint Lakes series, and over thirty more. She’s a main contributor at Once and Books. If you’d like to know more about her work, visit her website and sign up for her newsletter https://www.authoraprilkelley.com/. Become a Patron https://www.patreon.com/aprilkelley.