Thursday, March 21, 2013

Are You Happy?

Are You Happy?
By Annabel Aidan

As we continue our writing lives, we meet the page every day, writing book after book.  We figure out how to get the most bang for our marketing buck, and strive to continue to expand and engage our audiences.

But too often, we are so caught up in getting the daily To Do list done that we lose sight of the bigger picture.

Every so often, we need to step back and say, “What do I really want for my writing career?”  Even if your writing is not the primary source of income, you have to remember that it is a business, not a hobby, and that you should not be punished for loving your secondary job.  Those who hate their jobs will always try to belittle those who love their jobs, and try to make them feel as “less than” those who are doing the belittling.

Writing consists of a specific set of skills, a meld of craft and artistry.  Both parts of the equation are equally important.  Most people can place a word on a piece of paper; but it takes a specific combination of skill and talent to string the words together in a way that transports the reader.

That is what we do, and we deserve to be fairly compensated for it.  Plumbers, doctors, accountants, lawyers -- all of them spend years honing skills and are paid fairly.  So why are we constantly expected to work for “exposure”?  Exposure doesn’t pay the bills; cash does.  And our skills are just as deserving of cash as any other skilled artisan’s. It’s not a sell out to be paid for your work -- the fallacy of the romantic “starving artist” is yet an other form of oppression.

If you are happy writing occasionally and not being paid, that’s your choice.  But if you are actually building a career, you need to take a more clear-headed approach.

Every now and again, it makes sense to step back and look at where you are, the progress you’ve made over the past months or years, and, most importantly, where you WANT to go.

The “want” is different for each of us, and many factors feed into it.  My “want” may be different from someone else’s “want” in a writing career, and that’s fine.  That doesn’t make one right and one wrong -- it makes each individual “want” right for each individual.

Are you happy where you are?  Where can you improve?  Are you burning out?  Do you feel that you are pressured to write faster than is comfortable, or are you rising to new challenges presented by your editor or agent and enjoying them?  Do you feel in a creative rut, like you’re re-treading the same territory over and over again?  Does each book you write present you with new challenges?  Is each book taking you a further step down the path?

Most important:  Are you happy?

Does meeting the page every day excite you, or have you started dragging your feet and approaching the desk with dread?

Each of us has to answer these questions for ourselves.  Once we find the answers, then it’s up to us to take active steps to make changes.  Maybe we need to write a short story with different characters in a different genre.  Maybe we need to take a class -- even if it’s not a writing class.  Writing classes can give us new techniques -- provided we are willing to take risks and do the work -- but non-writing classes can give us fresh perspectives on the world that can then feed the writing.

Are you seeking out opportunities so that each piece is a building block to an overall “body of work”?  Do you set aside a specific block of time every week for marketing and networking, or do you do a little every day?  Is it worth trying something else, just to compare what works best for you?

Are you constantly seeking out markets with a better pay rate and higher visibility?  Are you communicating with readers, letting them know you appreciate the time they MAKE to read your work, and that you strive to grow with each piece you write?

Do you have an idea where you want to be in your career in one year, three years, five years?  What are steps along the way to get there?

Are you taking time every week to do something entirely because you want to, not because you “have to”?  That is an important part of creativity -- remembering to play.

It’s okay to make changes.  You don’t have to keep doing the same thing over and over and over again.  Your readers are growing and changing.  You will grow and change as an artist, too.  Take risks.  If something doesn’t work, that’s okay, but at least you tried.

Take stock.  See if you’re happy in your genre, in your format, in the way you set up your daily creative life.  If you’re not -- change it.

Inspiring Books for the Creative Process:
Creative Time and Space:  Making Room for Making Art -- Rice Freeman-Zachery
Living the Creative Life -- Rice Freeman-Zachery
Our Private Lives:  Journals, Notebooks, and Diaries, edited by Daniel Halpern

--Annabel Aidan is a full-time writer publishing under a half a dozen names in both fiction and non-fiction.  Her paranormal romantic suspense novel for Champagne is ASSUMPTION OF RIGHT, combining witchcraft, theatre, and politics.  Website:


Big Mike said...

I talk about the up/down roller coaster ride of writing myself tomorrow in my post "Ten myths to writing." Most that venture into writing start out climbing the smiley face hill until they learn 2 or 3 years in how difficult pushing your product is. They get torn between two worlds: enjoying the internal reward of putting words in print and the struggle with drooping sales. Some don't endure the ride and leave the market, frustrated by the process. Some, no many learn to keep marching forward, say the hell with revenues and enjoy the writing process itself.

Michael Davis (
Author of the Year (2008 and 2009)
Award of Excellence (2012)

Julie Eberhart Painter said...

It always surprises me when my doctors buy my books. But...they can afford them;they ARE well paid.

Liz Fountain said...

There is something magical about finding an audience for one's art - whether that art is a story, a painting, a piece of music, or a loaf of bread. Being intentional about how we connect with an audience seems both smart and wise.

Damaria Senne said...

I am currently rediscovering myself as aa writer, setting new goals, assessing my expectations of where i want my writing career to go, and your post ask some of the questions I need to find answers for. So thanks for the post.