Yesterday was the end of my working month, and in my new ‘day job’ (you might want to see ‘Don’t Forget the Day Job!’ for an explanation of my covert top secret financial contractor position 🙂 I have to tally up all my expenses.
Now, for the purposes of HMR&C that’s fuel costs, food and stationery … but, as I spent hour after hour photocopying receipts for countless bottles of Diet Coke and M&S motorway lunches, I began thinking about my ‘other job’.
What expenses have I incurred over the past three years, in my pursuit of becoming an author? What have my gains and losses been? If I had to fill in a reconciliation form at the end of the month, what things would I be claiming for?
At this point, I’d like to throw the question out to you guys – what has your writing career cost you so far? What have you benefitted from, and what have you lost along the way?
Here are a few of my ideas –
- Countless pens, pencils, notepads, napkins, receipts, printer paper, eye liners – basically anything you can write with or on!
- Two laptop batteries – from writing far too much on the back of buses
- Surprisingly no coffee (I get my caffeine from Diet Coke), but a fair old amount of chocolate, cheese, Haribo ….
- LOTS of sleep – I’m a night owl. No matter what time I get through the door, I can’t go to sleep without writing something … and often, thirty minutes turns into four or five hours!
- My eyesight! I had 20/20 vision until I was 22 … and after two years at uni, I ended up with glasses. Admittedly I only really wear them when I’m driving, but I’m sure if I didn’t spend quite so much time staring at my computer screen, my eyesight would be a lot better!
- An awful lot of waiting – writing, or rather getting into the writing world, is a game of patience … something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to me! However I like to think I’m learning.
- My naivete – I have learned A LOT about the publishing world in my year and a half as a ‘signed’ author. I’m not going to lie, some of those things have been disappointing and frustrating, but, as I’m always saying, authors at my stage of the game need to stay positive … and with that in mind, it shouldn’t just be a case of losing your naivete about getting published, but also gaining perspective and knowledge about your ideal career … So that brings me onto the Profits of this process –
- Lack of counseling sessions – who needs a therapist when your characters can have fights with their boyfriends and say everything that sprang to mind fifteen minutes after you had the real fight that inspired the fictional one?! A particularly good example of the cathartic nature of writing was in my first book ‘Flicker’. I myself was orphaned, and when I came to write a letter from the main character Felicity Firestone to her dead mother, to mark her own personal closure, it was probably the hardest chapter of a book I’ve ever written. To date, it’s the only section of a book that my agent has done a line-by-line edit of, because it ended up so lengthy and emotional, I didn’t even know where to start when it came to culling it down!
- A whole host of friends – both real and fictional! It’s hard not to think of characters like real friends. You create them. You bring them to life, and if you’re writing on a full-time basis, you spend a number of your waking hours with them. It’s impossible not to feel for them in the same way you would friends, because as an author, whether consciously or subconsciously, you invest an awful lot of yourself in them. But writing has brought me a number of friends and acquaintances in the real world … or at least the electronic world. Social networking sites like Twitter, and blogs like this one, have allowed me to communicate with, and create a dialogue with other writers and potential readers. Also, one of my closest friendships developed as a result of a then-acquaintance expressing an interest in my writing, and then eventually becoming my pseudo-editor and rather Dad like figure on the other side of the world!
- Loads of really interesting conversations! Tell someone you’re writing a book, or aspiring to be an author, and you genuinely never know what the answer might be. Maybe they’ve written a book, maybe they’re published, maybe they always wanted to write, or maybe they just want to hear about your experiences …
- A steep, but great, learning curve. Every edit creates new ideas and new questions about my characters and stories. Every edit or suggestion is a new perspective, allowing an originally two-dimensional story to grow almost infinitely.
BUT NOT …
- My fitness. Despite what people might think about writing and reading as pastimes, just because I love literature, doesn’t mean I don’t exercise! To be honest, the more time I spend in front of my laptop, the more important fitness and the outdoors is to me. When I was living in Canada, I actually found Bikram yoga was the perfect way to get ready to write, as after an hour and a half in a hot room with little more than my thoughts for distraction away from the heat and pain, I knew exactly what was coming next in the book I was writing.
- Cigarettes and crazy fashion … alas I am no Carrie Bradshaw! If I’m not writing on the back of a bus full of backpackers, I’m snuggled up in my grandad PJs in bed or infront of the TV.
- My hope, and self belief, … just yet. It CAN be a bit of an uphill struggle sometimes, and it’s easy to lose belief in yourself, but it’s a matter of knowing how to tackle your own negative attitude, and inspire yourself again – for me, that’s reading my own stuff. It’s only when I read something that I wrote some time ago that I see it through detached eyes and can actually appreciate how good (or bad!) my own writing is.