My son, always looking for ways to earn a few extra dollars to fund his science projects, emerged from his
laboratory bedroom as I emerged from my Writing Zone. We met at the writing fuel coffee pot, and he began his proposal.
“I see you’re making money,” he started.
“I’m not making money,” I answered.
A sound caught in his throat, as if this unexpected answer threw off his pitch.”You’re writing, aren’t you? Why aren’t you making money?”
“I’m writing something that I hope to sell, but I don’t have a contract.”
“Wait. You’re really not getting paid?”
“Not anytime soon. Maybe not ever. We’ll see.”
He was genuinely perplexed. “Why would you do that?”
Why does any writer–or any other artist–do that? Because we must. It’s our gift, our calling, our passion, whatever you want to call it. The real question should be: Why did it take me nine years?
For nine years, I wrote other people’s stories, websites, workbooks, Bible studies, book studies, and more. I edited for newbie authors who appreciated my help, for college students who counted on proofreading as part of their grades, for companies that like someone who follows instructions, and even for a very few brilliant authors who honored me by allowing me to study their unpolished manuscripts. And I thanked God for the opportunity to stay home with my kids and do what I love while helping to provide for my family. Now everything seems different.
Truth be told, it’s scary in No Contract, Writing-as-Myself Land. It’s not just the lack of money, either. The thing is, I became accustom to regular positive feedback for ego boosting. I liked the chance to fix something when feedback wasn’t good. I worked faster with imposed deadlines. I grew comfortable with anonymity, letting the responsibility for my words fall onto someone else’s reputation.
Life slips away, and it’s been nine years since I published something with my own name on it (besides this blog). It’s time for me to gather up all those bits and pieces of information and the stories that I’ve scribbled over the years, “for when I have time,” and craft them into something comprehensible. Something that only I can write. Real, honest-to-goodness books. (Just typing that last sentence makes me nervous.) But this is where my journey is leading me.
I’m sure other writers understand. So many of you bravely write your very own stories and ideas and dreams, without a contract, every day. And just as bravely, you send in queries and one sheets and synopses, and land those contracts. I salute every one of you.
Even though I’m not currently making money, I still wield the power over my son’s cashflow, as Mother Supreme, and I still support his love of science. We’re in this together.
Did you quit your day job to take on writing full time, with no promise of publication? How is that going for you? Did the lack of regular feedback rattle your self-esteem? Did the isolation drive you bonkers? I’d love to hear from y’all. I’m open to any and all advice and encouragement.