No, this post isn’t about the Spice Girls. Or it is, feel free to sing along.
This has been a rough summer in pretty much every way. One of the big themes has been me reevaluating exactly what it is I want from a writing career.
And the answer right now is pretty much this: I don’t know.
Publishing, like any creative industry, requires a lot of luck. It’s not something anyone wants to hear, but having a great book on its own means…not all that much. To get from finished manuscript to Barnes and Noble shelf, it doesn’t only take one yes. To get from finished manuscript to making a living doesn’t only take one yes.
There is no sovereign specific for publishing success.
This industry is really, really hard. I’ve had editors reading my books who had major medical crises, heard “we just bought something like this” and “I want this but ___ said no.” I’ve gotten deals only to have the acquiring imprint dissolve weeks after my book came out. (For real.) The writing is the easy part.
And even that is really hard.
I’ve been trying to redefine success, to figure out what exactly it is that, once achieved, I could be like, “Yeah, you know what? I’ve done the thing. I’m doing the thing.”
For Neil Gaiman, that was winning the Newberry Medal. Since that’s nowhere near my sphere of possibility right now, I’m going to find the bar for myself.
I think that for me, I will define success when I am earning enough to cover my overhead (all the stuff that goes into making a manuscript into a book and getting the word out), my bills, and be able to save. When I know that one catastrophe like a broken foot wouldn’t plunge me into financial doom. I think that’s a dream for a lot of people.
I’m not sure how to achieve that.
Basically, what I deem as success is having basic needs met. For someone who grew up in poverty, that’s a pretty big deal.
This is what I’ve been doing lately:
I wake up, get coffee, settle down to write. I make myself known on social media, because that’s a thing that needs to happen. I work on plotting out various books. Lately I’ve been writing 2000-6000 words a day. Once or twice a week, I go to my part time job.
When I finish my current project, LOOK TO THE SUN, that’ll be the third novel I’ve written in the past twelve months. Three a year seems to be about what I can manage with current stress levels. I wrote four last year, and how I managed to do that whilst working full time for most of it is beyond me.
This is a bit of a silly blog post that doesn’t say much. I guess I’m trying to work out what it is that I want and how to get there. Ultimately, what I want is to tell stories and reach readers who might need them. The only thing is, I have to do that in a way that’s sustainable. I need to eat, I need to take care of myself better than I have been, and I need to work on the long term.
Most of the people who read here — you’ve known me for some time. I don’t usually ask for advice, but I’m open to hearing your thoughts. What do you think?