I’ve been sitting and stewing on a topic that, recently, hit close to home. How do you balance the expectations and hopes of being an author with the realities of the trade? Can you be just an author? Or do you have to be the dreaded “slasher”? The author/mother/student/full time (insert job title here)/part time (insert again).
I think it’s fairly natural to have the highest of expectations in the beginning. The dewey-eyed, “I want to be a famous author” phase. When we figure out what we want to do with out lives, that is all we want to do. There are no “and”s, “or”s, or even “if”s. We will write. We will be authors. End of story.
Unfortunately, as time goes on, the realities start to creep in and taint our gusto. Bills continue to be bills. Fees continue to fee. Life happens. Whether it’s a broken-down car or the sixth pair of shoes for your son because he just refuses to stop dragging his toes (I’m looking at you, Booboo), you start to realize that you need a steady income. Can you achieve a steady income with writing? Sure.
But it ain’t gonna happen overnight.
So you start tacking on the slashes. You are now a writer/full time cook. One shows the skills, the other pays the bills. It’s the way the world works. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that you will never be able to quit your day job and survive off of your writing. It’s happened. I’m just saying that you should always have a back up, at least until you become a best-seller (Hell, probably even after that. Groceries are getting expensive, yo!)
Just don’t let reality steal your thunder, either.
Yup. Too much realism is just as bad as having none. Realism is exactly the opposite of a fiction-writer. Too much realism cancels out imagination. You need imagination to create your art. You need realism to survive. A healthy balance of both is needed to remain sane.
A month or so ago, my oldest (we shall call her Bug) was the topic of discussion. I was posting on facebook, celebrating the miniscule fruits of my labor, when an older family member in her life began to question the validity of being an author. To get right down to it, without bringing up all the messy feelings, she was trying to convince me to talk my daughter out of being an author. She wants to write. I love that. The girl has a great imagination and has potential (if she could pay attention in her English classes -stares-). Right off the bat, I got defensive.
How dare you try and talk this bright girl out of a dream she has? She began to argue, with me, the merits of having a “real” job and being a “constructive member of society” rather than wasting time in a hobby that doesn’t pay enough. Well, I can tell you, I felt offended. Since when did being a writer mean you didn’t contribute to society? Was she calling us lazy? Worthless? Yeah, my ego was more than a little bruised and the fact that she was still trying to convince me to talk my daughter out of something she wants to be was just the straw that broke the camels back.
I, very diplomatically, told her just how I felt. That I would support my daughter in whatever career SHE chose. That I knew my daughter was intelligent enough to know that she couldn’t rely, solely, on an industry so difficult to break into. She needed– and has— a back up plan. I am very proud of her.
But… as much as I hate it… I do see where the woman was coming from. She wasn’t entirely wrong… she just lacked tact in voicing her opinion. I realized that, though my daughter might understand the realities of her choices, not everyone is so lucky. Hell, it took me my first month on Kindle Select for it to really sink in just how difficult building a “career” out of this is going to be. So, this is my reality check. I’m not going to cash it, quite yet, but I am going to hold onto it for a rainy day. I am an author. I am a full-time “constructive member of society”. I am a full-time mama bear. There is nothing wrong with being a “slasher.”
Unless your name is Freddy, Jason, or Michael.