On Being a Prolific Writer, Part Two

Welcome back to M.S. Wordsmith for her second installment in her Being A Prolific Writer series. If you missed the first one, read it here. You can also find out more about Mariëlle on her website.

IMG_3562 (2)In my last blog, I brought up one of the first questions I ask when dealing with clients who feel overwhelmed by the constant pressure to write more: Where do you want your writing to take you? Discussing the fact that there are no universal goals when it comes to writing, I argued that this isn’t only a question we tend to overlook, I also pointed out the urgency of answering this question for ourselves if we want to stay sane in the current writing climate.

Today, I will share another question I ask when trying to figure out what my clients want from their writing—What does ‘making a living’ mean to you?

Figure out YOUR financial goal

keep-calm-and-make-money-121There are so so many articles out there that will tell you about writers who managed to start earning a 6-figure income through their writing, and how you yourself can become as successful within the next 2 to 5 years. Earning that much money through your writing sounds absolutely fabulous, but do you really need that kind of money? Is that truly a goal you have to set for yourself? Or is it far from what you need?

We all know that there are particular standards that differ per country/culture as to what making a living amounts to. There are numbers we look up to, numbers we look down upon, and numbers we would be OK with, or would at least be enough for us to live our lives comfortably enough (which is the basic meaning of making a living, after all). So, how about we figure out what we need to live comfortably enough before raising the bar to numbers that are bound to leave us breathless?

Living comfortably enough

What does living comfortably enough mean to you?

– What kind of place do you need to live comfortably enough?

– What kind of car(s) do you need to drive?

– How often do you need to go out, for dinner, to the theatre, to the cinema, to your local pub?

– What type of clothes or groceries do you need to be able to buy?

– What kind of holidays do you need to go on, and how often?

My partner ‘only’ works four days a week because he doesn’t want to work five. And he doesn’t need to, either. I combine a variety of different jobs that make my heart sing and easily work 60 hours a week, just for the fun of it. We’re the only ones in his family who rent a place instead of own one because juggling those different jobs makes it impossible to get a mortgage. Despite that, we’re happy where we are now financially because, while we earn less than all the other couples in the family, we understand that we’re in fact living comfortably enough. Would I mind earning 6 figures through my writing? Not at all. But it’s not a goal of mine; it’s not the income I need right now, so it’s not where my bar is set.

Raising the bar

That said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t raise the financial bar little by little, if you want to. My partner and I lived in an apartment for over a decade and it wasn’t until the last two years or so that my tiny office at the back of the house stopped working for me. My business was growing and I was spending more and more hours in that less than inspiring space. We tried refurbishing it—the rental market in our hometown was so slow at the time that moving to someplace bigger wasn’t an option—but it wasn’t enough. Lucky for us, that’s when the market shifted and we found our new place, a three story house with a giant attic that I turned into the best workplace imaginable. Yes, it’s more expensive than our old place, but we reached the point where raising our standards made all the sense.

What I’m saying is that there’s nothing wrong with wanting more than you currently have. There’s nothing wrong even with wanting that 6-figure income, although I suggest you might want to read those articles and start kicking your own ass (and ask yourself, while you’re at it, whether you need to reach it within the next 2 to 5 years). But, you do need to remember that none of us needs to put that kind of pressure on ourselves. What you do need to do is figure out what kind of ‘living’ you need right now, and turn that into your current goal. YOUR current goal. Once you reached that goal, that’s when you make up the balance and see whether it’s time to want a little more. If not, fine. We don’t have to want more or it all. If yes, go for it.


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About John Robin

John Robin is an epic fantasy writer, professional editor, and lover of imaginary worlds. He write stories about magic and myth, human suffering and the power to rise above it. He loves world building, coffee shops, mathematics, chess, and is an avid author community builder.
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6 Responses to On Being a Prolific Writer, Part Two

  1. John Robin says:

    What a post, thanks for offering your wisdom on my blog!

    As I was reading along you had my wheels turning. What is success as a writer? Not that I’ve been chasing 6-figure mirages, but even 5-figure can be pushing it. After all, that gets into the realm of full pay at a day job. But your post made me think a bit more on this issue. What is it exactly I’m trying to achieve? Well, first off, I want to be able to keep up my daily 2-hour writing habit, without going bankrupt or ending up under a bridge (I can handle the bridge part, as long as I have a laptop and no one steals it). Right now I am working on several strategies to keep this maintainable, but long-term they will keep me from growing. So I look at what I’m doing now as a radical investment in long-term success. What is that long-term success? Being able to increase my 2-hour writing window, without worrying about the financial strain. In other words, earning money from writing to take time away from the other work I do. I stress a lot about money and the fact that I’m spending all this time writing and don’t expect to see the big number$ roll in for years yet, but your post this morning helps me put this all in perspective and realize that success is a matter of stairways, and I’m doing the right thing right now focusing on the step before me.

    • mariellessmith says:

      Thank you, John, for being so generous in offering me a great outlet! And I’m glad my words made you pause and reflect, and realise you’re actually doing just fine. It’s so tricky to find balance when it comes to finances, and just when you think you found it, something shifts, and you feel like you have to start all over again and rethink your whole situation (that’s what it feels like to me, at least, back to the drawing board!). I’m struggling myself these days in that my present financial goals for 2018 involve me deprioritising my writing so I can expand my editing and translation business to keep myself from having to go back to teaching come September. I love teaching, and I love my university, but being a teacher these days is extraordinarily demanding, and I know teaching too much will deplete me and will keep me from writing altogether. In the long run, working hard to expand my freelance business now (whether so I can teach less or give up teaching altogether) will give me more time to write, because my freelance work actually inspires me, which benefits my writing. In other words, I know I’m doing the right thing right now for my writing, but it feels rather counterproductive, and counterintuitive, and it keeps throwing me off. But it is the right step for me now, in my current situation. I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

  2. Andrew Wood says:

    This is something I’ve struggled with. I soon need to start worrying about finances as I move out and start living on my own. The unicorn dream is to earn enough off of writing to afford the basic necessities, though I’m sure this the dream of all authors. Unfortunately, that’s just not realistic, so finding the balance between a day job and writing will become key. Who wouldn’t want a six figure salary from doing what you love? Most likely that’s not going to be the case, so don’t waste energy pursuing that dream, and don’t beat yourself up too hard if that doesn’t happen.

    • mariellessmith says:

      Exactly! I’d love to earn 6 figures from my writing, and who knows what the future will bring, but it’s indeed far from realistic right now, and while focusing on such a massive goal works for some people, for most it’s just paralysing. It’s called the ladder of success for a reason, and I suggest we focus on one rung at the time, and learn to be comfortable with that particular rung, because we might be there for a while.

  3. Pingback: Being A Prolific Writer, Part 3: with M.S. Wordsmith | John Robin's Blog

  4. Pingback: Being A Prolific Writer, Part 4: with M.S. Wordsmith | John Robin's Blog

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