How do you make a career out of writing?
If you really want to know, there are lots of ways to find out. You can do a writing course, or if you’re really keen, an MFA. You can buy one of a multitude of books telling you how to do it. Or, of course, you can seek out the wisdom of the great many experts posting their advice on the wide and wonderful web.
These sources will all tell you there are a heap of things you can do. Research the market. Design business plans. Find the right template for the story that will tick all the boxes and be an automatic best seller. There’s so much advice to heed and so many things you need to do. Luckily, I don’t have to worry about any of it.
Why is that? Because I have no intention of making a career out of writing.
Now that sounds pretty weird. Why would someone who claims to be a writer insist they have no intention of making a career as a writer? I’ll try to explain.
Partly it comes down to being of a certain age. I’ve gone far enough in my life that I don’t frame my ambitions around the idea of a career. I do things I do because I want to, not because of some grander career or business or marketing plan.
Secondly, surprising as it may sound, I actually do have a career. I’m not sure how it happened. It wasn’t by design, I can assure you. But somewhere along the line, I discovered myself holding down a series of long-term jobs, learning more about a particular field of work, and actually even getting some promotions, to the point where I can no longer deny I really do have a career. It isn’t necessarily, the be-all and end-all of my life, but it’s not a bad thing to know I have something solid to fall back on, particularly in a financial sense.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this situation. Main disadvantage is that, owing to my accidental career, I don’t always have the time for writing I would like. In effect, writing becomes a bit of a sideline – something I sneak into a spare hour or two when I can. And even if I don’t think of writing as a career, I do like to think it is more important than that.
On the other hand, the advantage of the situation is it takes the pressure off when it comes to my writing. I don’t need to be driven by business goals or financial needs. I don’t need to think of my books as ‘product’ that must be sold. I can write the books I want to write, putting my heart and soul into them without having to be so concerned about commercial considerations.
This may go against the grain when it comes to the requirements of being a modern writer, particularly an independent writer. But I don’t care. Sure, I’d like to sell a few more books. And it would be a lovely dream to be able to wind back the career and be able to get by on writing royalties (like I said, while I have a career, it’s not something I love). But I’ve been around the traps long enough to know that whatever I want to do, I want to do it for the right reasons.
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