Writer's Notebook

Writing & Family

Posted on April 7, 2018 at 6:00 PM

This post started in 2015, at around our 6 month aniversary. It was originally titled, "Husbands Are the Best." And while Seth is still the best, our family and my writing career have both expanded, and so I would like to share with you a little bit more of what I have learned in balancing creative work and our crazy life. 

In college, Seth helped out a lot with my creative products. Best brainstorming buddy ever! I had to write a poem (several poems, actually) for my intro to creative writing class. A villanelle, which is fourteen lines of rhymes upon rhymes upon non-rhymes. A little confusing for a eighteen year-old fresh out of high school who has only written a few poems before. So, we decided that I should write an ars poetica, or a poem about poetry. We had so much fun coming up with rhymes for "villanelle," and putting together a coherent poem about how awful they are to write. I can't share the poem here (or else I will not be able to publish it in a journal or magazine), but I can tell you that poetry-writing sessions can make for some fantastic dates  :)! 

Seth is seriously the best. When we graduated, he gave me an entire year to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I thought I wanted to make writing a career, and so I set about trying to figure out how to make my work pay. And I ended that experiment with a very small, unstable income from my writing. But it was something. 

We reconvened and decided that making writing my career was best for our family, as it fit well into the lifestyle we had built for ourselves post-graduation. We live in a camper and travel for Seth's work, and so me being able to work remotely is a huge plus. Also, I get to set my own hours, so I can help Seth out with events when he needs me. 

Seth and I in high school.

Yep, I got to marry my high school sweetheart,

so I am pretty lucky!

And, because we travel full-time, I have decided to self-publish my works (for the foreseeable future, at least). I am in a unique position to do book tours, minus travel expenses, as long as I book poetry readings and book signings near where Seth is already doing events. I did my first poetry reading in October 2017, and absolutely loved it.

I self-published my first chapbook, Aesthetic Blindness, in summer 2017, and so far I have sold 150 copies. Which doesn't seem like much, but for self-published poetry by an unknown writer, that is a really good number! I learned a lot from self-publishing, and am working on getting my thoughts and tips in order to share with you, so be on the lookout for some posts in that vein! 

From our engagement shoot in December 2014.

Through out it all, Seth has been very encouraging. I really wouldn't be able to make writing a full-time career without his support, and the support of our family. Creative pursuits don't happen in a void, they happen in real life, and having a support system is key if you want to make your creative endeavors successful!

So, how do I make writing a full-time job? Right now, it feels like I am putting in all the work of a full-time job, without the pay or benefits. But I know that everything I am doing now is building for the future. I have a goal of making so much a month, and that figure covers a "salary" for me, as well as work-related expenses. Right now, I am  at 2% of my goal. I will give you my writing tips first, and then my business plan, so you can see how the two work together. 

Over 2017, I filled a composition notebook with poetry. I had the goal of writing a poem a day, and I ended up writing less than that, but more by far than what I wrote in college, so it was still a step in the right direction. So, my advice to you is to set big goals with easy implementation. This year, my goal is to write a few pages every "business day." That is just to help make creativity a more disciplined pursuit, and I know it can be done, since I was able to go from having no poetry ready for publication May 2017 to having a full-length chapbook ready for peer editing by April 2018! 

I told a friend to do this too. Try to write a page or so a day, and keep that same notebook with you in your purse or backpack (or use your phone, I know that is what published author Jeff Zentner does!) and pull it out in odd moments. Maybe you hear an odd conversation, and you have time to write it down with a brief backstory. I was able to write a novel outline that I plan on pulling out and finishing in 2019 because I did just that! Fill as many notebooks as you can. The constant practice will give you lots of creative ideas to explore, as well as better your craft. 

For The One, I started it in January of 2015, and let it sit as a glorified outline until Fall 2017. I was planning on publishing it in December of 2018. Trust me, I understand fully how life can get in between us and our well-laid plans.

Photo of us with the getaway car

right after the ceremony!

Baby number one is almost one! We had been busy planning for her arrival, and I have to admit, writing slipped off the face of the earth from November 2017 (mid-NaNoWriMo when we found out we were expecting) to February 2018. I had absolutely no desire to write, and was a little bummed out at that. And I completely ghosted from August 2018, until now, mid July 2019. Writing as a career is hard to balance with family life as a stay-at-home mom. Especially when your home moves every few weeks.

But now we are starting to get settled into a routine. Routines are crucial for balancing family and work!  In fact, I have experienced a fresh burst of productivity, and I think a big part of that is knowing that my writing will have to start paying a larger share of the bills in order for me to be a TAHM (travel at home mom!). So, even with deadlines and goals, be flexable. 

If I had rigidly stuck to the poem a day challenge, I probably would not have a finished manuscript. Why? I would have been so overwhelmed at the ammount of days I missed that I would have just given up. I've learned to differenciate between types of goals. There are "aspiring goals" which is like writing every day. Something you aspire to do, but might not ever fully realize. And that's okay, because each time you try, you get closer to being there. And then there are "hard goals." Goals with deadlines and actual, actionable steps besides "try harder." Goals like a publication date, and then working back to come up with big and little steps needed to be ready for that publication date. Both goals matter, but don't give "aspiring goals" the same weight. That is probably the biggest peice of advice/reassurance I can give you!

In this last year, I have experimented with a few different income streams: selling print copies of Aesthetic Blindness both in person and online through Square, selling the eBook version on Kindle (I haven't sold a single eBook yet! ugg), and selling custom poetry on Etsy. Most successful so far? Print books in person. Most successful day? October 7, 2017 (25 of the 150 copies)! You know what that tells me? My web/social media presence needs work! I hear about all of these writers who sell exclusively eBooks, and make thousands a month. I'm not there yet. You know what else that tells me? Book readings are so crucial for self-published authors! With our lifestyle, we get the opportunity to make a lot of connections, but Seth and I could both be better at follow-up. I'm starting to see my email list and social media as relationship building resources. Ultimately, people will buy your writing if they have a relationship with you.

I've given you a lot of information, so what are the biggest take-aways I want to leave you with?

1. Support System: In order to balance writing (or any creative pursuit) and family life, you have to have a family that is on board with what you do. I am so lucky to be married to Seth, and he is so supportive of my writing. It would be really hard to keep plugging away at a writing career if I knew that he wasn't 100% on board with the idea. Who are the people in your life who encourage you to be creative? Keep them close! Let them know when you've hit a wall or want to give up. Writing happens in community, so if you aren't plugged in to a writing community, find one!

2. Work in Season: Not every season of life will lend itself well to a balancing act. Sometimes, you  have to prioratize, and different parts of your normal life will be pushed to the backburner. And that is okay. When it was just Seth and I, I had a lot of time I could carve out of my day to write. Even though baby slept a lot right after birth, I was exhausted! I only had energy to eat, feed the baby, and then nap myself. Now that She is one, I can start to carve out a few hours every day to work, but I know that one day, I'll be able to be back to 5-8 hours of writing, editing, and marketing my work. I could be disappointed that I can only write for an hour here or there and do nothing, but then I know I'll look back on these years and feel like I wasted time. If I can only devote a few hours, I know that in a year, they'll add up to something. This kind of lifestyle is less of a balance and more of a rhythm.

3. Different Goals: There are attainable goals and there are goals that aren't. The sooner you learn to tell the difference, the less stressed you'll be. In 2020, I will again be giving myself the goal of writing a poem every day. Will I actually? Probably not. But by pushing myself, I'll write more than I would otherwise. Don't give this type of goal the same weight as a hard and fast deadline, like a date to have a synopsis by, or a date to have your edits done so you can send your work off to either an editor or an editing team.



Categories: Writer's Notebook, Just for Fun

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