Keep Money in Its Place
Today I’m going to tell you the quickest way to drive yourself crazy and lose the joy in your writing journey.
You thought I was going to say “Reading agent blogs,” right? Good guess, but no, that’s not it.
The quickest way to lose the joy is to expect that your first book contract is going to solve some kind of financial problem in your life.
Lately with the economy being rough on so many people, I’ve noticed that some writers who’ve been working at this awhile and feel like they’re getting “close” to having something published are harboring unrealistic expectations about the financial end of being an author. Their entire process of writing and rewriting and preparing proposals (etc.) is overlaid with this pressure and this anxiety—this need to sell, and sell soon, because they really need the money.
Now believe me, I know what it’s like to need money. Take it from someone who began a new business right at the moment the economy tanked—I understand things are rough out there.
Nevertheless, I firmly believe that newer writers, especially those who don’t have a book published yet, need to keep a clean separation between their writing goals and their financial goals. At least in the short term, keep your writing life separate from your financial anxiety.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s perfectly legitimate to have long-term goals that include making some percentage of your income from writing books. You may even have the goal of being able to write books full time and quit your day job. But your short-term goal should never be “Get a contract for this book so we can get out of this financial jam we’re in.”
I’ve found that when the writing is all mixed up in your mind with a financial need, especially a need that’s fraught with anxiety, the writing suffers. Not only that, but the joy is diminished, because the goal has changed (maybe without your even knowing it) from “write a great book” to “pay off my MasterCard.” And when that fantastic day comes and you finally get your first book contract, instead of being able to experience the joy of attaining a long-held goal, you’ll be asking yourself if the advance is enough to pay off the MasterCard.
A goal is a good thing. Desperation… not so good.
I’ve had this conversation with a few writers lately, and it’s difficult. My advice has been to find other ways to bring in an income, even if it takes time away from writing, so that their writing is not connected to their economic anxiety. I’ve also talked with writers who had some success with a few books published, but unfortunately quit their day jobs before they were really able to support the family from the books alone. The same thing happened to them—their writing life became riddled with anxiety because suddenly there was huge pressure to keep selling books.
I realize that many of you have spent years and probably a lot of money in the pursuit of publication. Many of you also have spouses who are looking for some return on that investment. I don’t have any easy answers. Yes, of course you want to eventually see some financial gain. And some of you will find the answer in self-publishing, if you have a strong platform and ability to sell a lot of books. But I just want to emphasize: Especially when you’re first starting out, you’ll be happier and you’ll probably write better if you don’t allow your writing to be connected to financial necessity and anxiety.
Q4U: Do you think your writing might suffer if you’re trying to write to solve a financial problem? Or conversely, do you think an economic goal can be a positive motivator for your writing?