5 Full-Time Author Struggles (and How to Avoid Them)
A lot of authors use publishing purely as an outlet for creative expression. A hobby they practice in their free time. They just enjoy the work and want to see readers devouring their books. To soak in the kudos and hear fans raving about their characters. To know that they’ve inspired a child or touched a stranger’s life in a way they could never have imagined. While creative fulfilment is fantastic, though, it’s not enough for everyone. For many of us, turning the hobby into a business is the real goal.
As you’re reading this blog post, you probably want to make money and have fantasised about the potential lifestyle your writing could generate. Maybe you want to go full time to give up the day job, along with its commutes, bosses and time restraints. Perhaps you also want to free up your days to follow your creative muse or travel while you work. Either way, you love writing and believe you can do it professionally. If you’ve had a great start, you might have made the leap, in which case you have likely already encountered teething problems and are looking to fix issues that many hobbyists never anticipate; the growing pains of the full-time transition.
Most never get to experience the struggles of arrival. If this is still a pipe dream for you, why would you consider the potential pitfalls? That’s no fun. It’s prudent to do so, however. Just knowing the common issues new full-time authors face can help you mentally and physically prepare for them yourself. Today’s blog post delves into the five major ones we all encounter to help you get your ducks in a row. Read on to expose these common traps and learn about the solutions you can use to sidestep them and avoid the pain they cause.
Getting Interference from Family
For decades, millions of office workers have wished their employers would let them work from home. Yet, having tasted the reality during the pandemic, a large portion realised it isn’t for them. As much as they wanted to spend more time with their family, they realised that merging their home and work lives had a significant impact on their productivity. You’ll know exactly what this means if you’ve ever tried to fill in a form with a toddler pawing at you for ice cream, or host a Zoom meeting with a cat’s tail flicking your nose. Working from home with a family can be distracting. But as an author, you won’t truly notice the frustration this causes until you have to rely solely on your writing to pay the bills.
“You might as well help clean the house if you’re just sitting there.”
“Can you run an errand for me as you’re home?”
“Spend time with me. You’re the boss now. You can write any time!”
Your loved ones will almost certainly test your commitment with lines like these if you don’t set boundaries. For best results, talk it over with them at the earliest possible opportunity. Make it clear that you plan to give up your day job and work from home as an author. You might need to have this discussion with a romantic partner, your kids, and friends or neighbours if you have them and foresee them causing a problem. Mention how your writing is a real business and explain that you’ll rely on being productive to pay the bills. Explain how much time and focus it’ll require to drive home the point. Suggest realistic office hours and a place and time where you can’t be disturbed each day. If everyone agrees to your plan in advance, you can more effectively enforce it in the future.
Getting Less Done Than Expected
When a person’s time is limited, they often become super-aware of how they spend it and increase their efficiency. Students put off writing an essay for weeks yet finish it the night before a deadline. Homeowners fit days of chores into an hour before a visitor has promised to arrive. It’s Parkinson’s Law at play – the idea that tasks expand or shrink to fill the windows of time dedicated to them. Say you can write 1,000 words an hour and have one hour to spare. How much would you write? Probably 1,000 words. Given 5 hours, many authors would still only write 1,000. And given all day, they often write less. Why? Parkinson’s Law. When they have lots of time, humans often fail to realise their hours are finite and waste them.
Fortunately, once you know the psychology behind it, you can use Parkinson’s Law to your advantage. Remember those office hours? Tell yourself they’re fixed and non-negotiable and it will help you convince even yourself that your workday is finite. During office hours, pre-plan your work to keep you on track and ensure you execute on that work. Turn off the internet if that’s the only way to ensure you focus. At the same time, tell yourself that you must spend non-office hours with family or friends. If you can make plans, even better. This is important because it sets clear boundaries between work and play, which can make you more efficient.
Feeling Less Creative
It’s difficult to enter the flow state and feel inspired when you’re too tired to focus. The same goes for being too stressed. Few things stifle creativity as effectively as pressure. Yes, a deadline can help you get a job done but that’s different to chronic pressure that keeps you up at night, wondering whether your royalty cheques will cover the bills. This is the kind of stress that many authors face the minute they leave a reliable salary. As a mental issue, eradicating this kind of stress is notoriously difficult. We’re not discussing clinical stress here; just worry. Nonetheless, it’s important, and often felt by new full-time authors to the point where it makes them unable to write.
It’s impossible to go a week without feeling stress, never mind a whole career, but you can take steps to manage it and re-claim your creativity. One way is to take a day off to recharge. Having said that, it’s not always possible if you have bills to pay. If you don’t have the time right now, a short, daily meditation practice can help. Many innovative business leaders use daily meditation to boost their creativity. According to a study at the University of Rotterdam, even 10 minutes can foster creative thought. Meditation can expose your writing’s insignificance and help you ease the pressure off it to think more laterally. As an article in Harvard Business Review puts it, meditation will give you: “better ideas, better decision making, and a better mood — all in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee.”
Stress affects more than just your creativity. The American Psychological Association explains in a 2015 study that money is the number one source of stress in the United States, with 72% of American subjects claiming they worry about it at least once a month. Work-life was a close second. What’s more, a 2020 article published by Very Well Mind suggests money worries can:
- Impair decision-making skills
- Cause fatigue
- Trigger mood swings
- Amplify headaches and stomach problems
As a new full-time writer, you run the risk of increasing your exposure to both common stress sources and can experience all of the associated symptoms, facing a sudden lack of clarity and a fluctuating income.
Factors you can’t control will initiate a lot of this worry. A great way to avoid those panic-inducing factors is to focus on what is within your power: the day’s to-do list. Forming a process with wordcount goals and production schedules is key, as is trusting the system to create your desired results. Don’t worry about the metrics, just the task in front of you. That will keep you sane. The same goes for your writing and your financial plans. Most authors have lean months. If you routinely live below your means and save or invest before you spend any excess every month, though, you’ll build a money cushion that can ease your financial worries and improve your day-to-day mental and physical health when money is tight.
Going Stir Crazy
Millions have learned during the deepest lockdowns that spending the workday hours at home can quickly make a lounge resemble solitary confinement. With little social interaction, days can drag and even blur together. The one comfort early pandemic workers had was that everyone was in the same boat and it would soon end. Full-time authors have no such emotional safety net. Nor do we have any reason to talk to other humans without a public workplace. And while we all react differently to isolation, at some point even the most introverted among us need to go outside and interact with society for our own happiness.
If you’ve previously worked with others, you could coast socially on invitations to drinks after work, Christmas parties and lunch break gatherings. As a self-employed author, however, being proactive is the only way to ensure you socialise enough to stay happy. Friends who live in the rat race won’t feel the need to socialise in their free time as acutely as you do, so you’ll likely need to be the one doing the inviting. Try to organise to meet up with someone in the real world at least once a week if you can. If your pre-author friends aren’t willing or can’t socialise often on your new schedule, consider reaching out to others in the author community. Being flexible themselves, many welcome real-world meetups, even at unusual hours. Anticipating these new full-time author struggles is challenging enough, but overcoming them in the real world can be harder. Overcome these early challenges, though, and you will successfully transition into running a fulfilling, full-time author business. Once you’ve settled into it, you’ll never want to return to the day job again.
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