I don’t know any published authors who've managed to completely break free from the job that pays their bills yet – I know they’re out there of course. Lots of them. But most who've either published a novel or those still trying to reach their dream of becoming published must find a balance between their day job and their passion. And make no mistake: while I love my day job, my passion is for writing books.
I suspect that most authors are a little bit crazy to try and carve out a method by which they balance the hat in each hand. Depending on how old you are can have an impact on your passion as well because if you’re younger than me (I’m 45) then you’ve probably got young children running around so there’s school and preparing lunches and parenting in general that has to be done. So now you’ve got three jobs: one that pays the bills, one that keeps your family running and one that is your dream.
How we manage to find this balance is a source of wonder to me because most people are dead dog tired by the time they get home from work each day. How someone can muster their reserves long enough to sit at their computer for a few hours each day and actually create something from absolutely nothing is an incredible feat. Why? Because writing a book is bloody hard work.
For me at least, I think what keeps me going is likely the same thing that keeps most writers going: the dream of being able to make enough money from your published works that you might somehow manage to write full time. I have an idea what it looks like in my head, but I’m not there yet.
And still I write. Still, we all write.
My day generally begins at around three in the morning. I get up, have a shower and shave. I grab a coffee and head into my office to pump out a thousand or so words before heading off to work. I do eight to ten hours at the office and then I’m back home for 5:00 PM. I have supper with my better half and then I retire downstairs to the family room to watch TV and do something mindless before heading off to bed at around 8:00 PM. I read for a good half an hour (or until I get tired of the book falling out of my hands because I’m nodding off) and then it’s up at 3:00 AM the next morning and the cycle repeats itself.
I’ve been doing this for years. Sometimes I want to just give it all up and resume a non-writerly life, but I simply can’t. I need to sit down and work on a novel – I’m compelled to do it, actually. I’m not special, there are jillions of others like me who are trying to find that balance. But it does wear away at you over time – sometimes I feel like a living shadow, if that makes any sense. I’m just going through the motions each day because my energy is at a ridiculously low level. Then I draw on my rocket fuel: I close my eyes and try to visualize what my life will look like if I somehow manage to do this full time. It’s sort of the author equivalent to daydreaming about winning the lottery.
Along the way you have ups and downs. The downs are particularly severe, I think, when you’re unpublished and you’re trying to find an agent or you’re submitting to a publisher that doesn’t require agents. The reason for this is that you have to somehow manage being rejected and still find the courage to keep pressing on. I say courage because it takes courage to want to become published. You’re taking something you’ve poured your heart and soul into and throwing it out to the universe to be parsed, critiqued and more often than not, rejected.
This is a craft, folks, make no mistake. And those rejections can be absolutely brutal, particularly when your energy level is critically low. The good news, though, is that when you find an agent or you manage to get published, it’s instant affirmation that you might possibly make a go of this. That you have a measure of talent. That all those early morning or late night hours weren’t wasted away. And of course once you have reached this level, the very act of getting an email from your agent simply saying “hi, how are you holding up?” can do wonders to sustain you on those low days.
I’m unbelievably lucky to have already been published four times, to have found an agent who thinks I’m awesome and to have had that same agent land a book deal with a respectable publisher. I’m now making a little bit of money for the first time. The future looks brighter than it did yesterday. I have someone in my corner cheering me on and I’ve got an editor who challenges me to make that book even better. I’m still not in a position to write full time, but that dream no longer looks like a pipe dream.
So that’s a bit of my journey. I’m no better than any other author who struggles to find their balance between life and writing. In 2011, I managed to write two books which are now in my agent’s hands and finished revisions on my now published novel POLTERGEEKS. This year I wrote the sequel, completed revisions on a project my agent has just started sending to publishers and now I'm revising the great Canadian YA zombie novel. That’s an accomplishment that I’m immensely proud of. It’s sort of one of those benchmarks for my life because I've not been that productive in a twelve month period before.
I’m revising THE NORTH right now. I’m still plugging away at the day job and I’m dreaming big. I’m no longer afraid to dream big.
My advice to other writers who are still trying to find their balance? Just do it, you know? Just allow yourself to dream big because when you are feeling the lowest of the low, those dreams are often the only thing standing between you becoming published or giving it all up.