Earning a Living as a Writer

A couple weeks ago I read this article on Salon. In this article the writer talks the need for writers to be honest about what is actually supporting their writing careers. Whether is is being heir to a family fortune or having a spouse whose career supports your writing.

I come from the other side of this equation. I am not an heiress to any family fortune. Alas and alack my mom’s calling isn’t finance and business like the rest of her family. Her calling is nursing and while she’s done well and has been a responsible investor she certainly isn’t at the same financial level as her brothers. She married for love but it didn’t work out. My dad has gone through a series of career choices- computer programer, day trader, poker player- but he’s not exactly saving money for his elder years or to leave his children. His philosophy on money seems to be “You can’t take it with you.”

I have been writing for over 10 years. After several classes, conferences, and writing classes I started really pursuing the whole writing for publication thing in 2008.

I have to confess that as a single person working in the arts my biggest obstacle in writing is often money. I work in theater. Sometimes there is plenty of work, so much work that I feel like I need to take on as much work as I can, because other times there is less work. In addition to my full time job I regularly take on freelance wardrobe gigs doing laundry for other theaters. Or I babysit. Lately I’ve been lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. I’m trying to build a copywriting/editing business in hopes of earning some of my income by putting words on paper.

While I think the article makes some good points about money I also think that sometimes when you are writing it is one of those situations where the grass looks greener in someone else’s yard. I used to envy my friends who were able to be stay at home parents. I dreamed of meeting someone who had the kind of career and benefits that could sustain me and my writing dreams. But I realized in some ways maybe they also envied me. My fun job, the copious amounts of free time I must have since I don’t have kids.

Sometimes concerns over money cause me to waste perfectly good writing time. I enjoy the structure of going to work. Even though I dream of being independently wealthy I’m certain that if I were to win the Powerball tomorrow and be able to sit and write without needing to worry about paying the bills I would probably not get any more writing done than I do trying to fit writing into my life with two jobs.

What do you think? Is money a huge factor in your writing life? Do you wish it was a more talked about thing? Have you found creative ways to support your writing career?


Freelance Fridays- When to say No

It’s been a while since I posted about my journey into freelance writing but this week I had a relevant experience so I thought I’d share.

After my vacation in January I spent the rest of my time off trying to figure out some ways to earn a little extra money writing. I signed up for a couple content writing sites for when other projects are slow to come in.

A couple weeks ago I started getting a few more gigs through my fiverr profile. There is the potential for a larger custom order but it is being done in small pieces for now so that is very exciting.

I had a couple buyers contact me about work but then nothing came of that. Still, I started to feel like a real live freelancer. Plus I was making some extra money, from writing.

But then I had a buyer contact me about the possibility of paying for a book review. This one stopped me. I’m an aspiring writer so connecting with other authors and supporting other authors is really important to me. I went back and forth on whether or not to do the work. Part of me thought, well it is only $5, it’s not THAT big a deal. Part of me thought about all the authors I follow who offer their readers some grand prize in exchange for leaving a review on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes. Is the chance to win a prize really all that different than getting paid?

I looked at the book, I looked at the reviews, I downloaded a sample and I read through that and I ultimately I decided that yes, getting paid, even a small amount to leave a review is different from leaving a review and hoping to win a prize. The few times I’ve left reviews for books I’ve read because the authors are hosting a prize giveaway it has always been because I liked the book. As I write a review it is because I like that author and their work and I think others should read that work.

I don’t just go reviewing things willy nilly. I follow a lot of writers through blogs, twitter, and Facebook and I see them talk about reading negative reviews on sites and how much it affects them. These are writers who are doing well. Writers with traditionally published books who probably don’t have to worry too much if one reviewer leaves a bad review. I do love recommending books I really like.

As I sat there debating whether I should read this book and leave a review for $5 I just couldn’t do it. As a pre-published author I don’t want to get into doing anything that might look bad for my future career. Is one paid for review going to raise any read flags? Probably not but this is the internet. Things live forever on the internet. My name would forever be attached to this review. Plus I feel like it is a bit of a slippery slope. Sure maybe right now it was just one review but I worried that it could become a more regular thing.

As I get started in the freelance copywriting world I’m learning that you don’t always get to write about something you are passionate about or something you believe in. But it is sort of part of the job to put some of that aside and write. As a person who can’t eat gluten I can write about donuts, pizza, cupcakes, and cakes all day long. I have no problem writing to sell or promote a brand. It is part of the job when you are making your living with words.

But when it comes to leaving paid for reviews I said no. That wasn’t something I could do. It didn’t feel right. It was giving a false boost to something I didn’t really believe in and it could hurt my business and my own publishing ambitions.

I told the perspective client that I was unable to do the work because I felt it violated terms of service for both the site it the review would be placed on and the site I was working through. I cited my own writerly ambitions as a reason as well.

Have you said no to freelance work because it didn’t feel like the right thing to do?



On Giving Diverse Books

I think about the need for diversity in books a lot.

First of all I live in a diverse neighborhood and I work alongside people of a diverse background. I see diversity every day. I work in the arts and I know how important it is for people to see their stories told on the page, stage, or screen.

Earlier this month while getting ready for my vacation I was looking at books at the airport bookstore. There is an airport bookstore at the MSP airport that kicks ass in terms of its children’s book selection. While I was looking at books, trying to get a little inspiration for my nephew’s upcoming birthday, the book A Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats caught my eye.

I think about diverse books a lot. A few years ago my dad married a woman from Mexico and is now the step parent to a wonderful soon to be teenager with a completely different background and heritage than him. My stepsister will go through life having experiences that I might never understand.

Last summer she came to visit and we went to the Mercado Central every day. The Mercado Central is a place in my neighborhood that is home to several owned and run by Latino people. The goal is to is to give people a way to grow and develop businesses. She loved getting to eat all of her favorite foods, buying her favorite kinds of candy at the Dulceria, and speaking with people at the Mercado in her native language. The children at the park by my house embraced her. Little ones looked up to her and ones closer to her age included her in their games. Since moving here she has also become a “typical” American teenager. She listens to pop music, she had a crush on Austin Mahone, but not Justin Bieber, she is a cheerleader and a gymnast. Recently she has begun to talk about how she is “losing her Mexican”.  I am always thinking about diverse books for her. Books with diverse characters, books written by writers from a diverse background.

Looking at books for my nephew that day and seeing A Snowy Day reminded me that I need to make sure I pay the same amount of attention to diversity when picking out books for my nephew. My nephew lives in Alabama. His parents are very conservative and religious. His parents live out in the country. They have juggled their lives around not putting my nephew in day care. It is possible that when the time comes for school that they will homeschool him or send him to a Christian school.

I don’t see him a lot but I realize that with this upbringing he may not be experience the same level of diversity in his life that a kid growing up in my neighborhood might. Looking at A Snowy Day I remembered that it is just as important to send my nephew books with diverse characters and diverse writers as it is to send my stepsister or any other child I buy books for.


Returning to the Page

So I don’t want to dwell on what a tough year 2014 but one of the things that I didn’t do as much in 2015 was write.

But wait, aren’t you a writer? Isn’t this blog about writing?

So let me clarify. I wrote my 12 manuscripts for 12×12. I wrote 32 ideas for PiBoIdMo. I occasionally worked on my Middle Grade WIP. I wrote blog posts. I did copywriting for people.

But the writing that was missing from my life was the writing where I sit down with a notebook and a pen and just empty my thoughts onto paper. I’m not working on telling a story. I’m not worried about if anyone is reading it. I’m not worried about anything. I just sit and write and collect my thoughts for the day or maybe I write about a problem I’m having and I keep writing about that problem until I figure out how to deal with it.

Everyone does this kind of writing. Maybe it is the three pages you write in the morning, before you check your email or Facebook. Maybe it is just a writing warm up. But in 2014 I had less writing time so I didn’t spend as much time doing the clear my head kind of writing.

I feel like I lost focus on that writing as I turned my writing focus to how I could earn an income from my writing. I focused on how to break into freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading and didn’t remember to write every day.

I am returning to journalling now, after realizing how much I missed it. I recently read about how writing can reduce stress buy giving you a way to deal with stress. Maybe the fact that I wrote less in my journal in 2014 is why my stress seemed to go up in 2014.

I dealt with a lot of stressful things in 2014 and I did so largely without writing about them. Part of me is a little bummed that I won’t have a record to look back on about 2014. How did I deal with all the change around me? How did I deal with my concerns?

As I settle back into habits I am returning to my daily writing practice. Writing, with a pen, in a notebook.

What is your daily writing practice? Do you start your day with journaling or morning pages?



What I Learned on My Vacation

As a writer and all around creative person I know how important traveling is. I know that when we travel we open ourselves to new experiences, see new things, meet new people, and fall in love with new places.

I know all these things. I’m secretly jealous of my brother, whose possessions fit in a hiking backpack, a laptop case, and a small box. I am envious of some of my younger friends who take a gap year or travel between projects. Sometimes I am even a little envious of people who go on tour.

But the choices I’ve made in my life favor security. Steady job, pets, home ownership, and investing are all things I place a high value on. My main passion is writing so I spend money on writing classes, workshops, and conferences.

January is usually a slow time at work and the minute it started snowing in November I just couldn’t face another winter without a break. I began looking at warm places and trying to figure out if there was a way I could take a vacation. I explored all the options. I figured even if I was staying on an air mattress in someone’s spare bedroom on airbnb it would still be better than hiding out underneath seventeen blankets, wrapped in three layers of clothes, and working my way through my netflix queue.

Here is what I learned on my vacation.

1. I need to take more vacations- I don’t know how I’m going to do this but I definitely need to change how I spend and save money so I can afford this.


2. I need to go dancing more. I already kew this but I love dancing but I went dancing a couple nights in Cabo and I need to go dancing more.


3. Travel begets more travel. I know I need or want to travel more. I look at pictures and think about it a lot. Here’s the thing there is not substitute for the real thing. Looking at a picture of a beach is nice but it will not motivate me as much as feeling the warm sun on my skin and the sand between my toes. Now that I’ve taken a proper vacation I can hardly wait to take my next vacation and you can bet I’m going to figure out how to make it happen.


4. Travel inspires my writing. First of all I loved sitting on my little patio in Mexico scribbling in my notebook. I don’t know what picture book or middle grade ideas will come of this trip but I definitely have an idea for a screenplay even though I have no earthly idea about how to write a screenplay. Who knows perhaps I will write a screenplay inspired by my trip to Mexico and all of my future vacations will be paid for. A girl can dream, right?

5. Travel has unexpected side effects. Living out of a suitcase and only wearing shorts, flip flops, and swim suits for a week will change your perspective on your possessions. Slowing down, taking a more laid back approach to life, and disconnecting from the grid are all really great things. I returned home wondering why I have so much stuff.

I am already thinking about how to make travel more possible for myself in the future and also how to drag more people to Mexico with me next winter.

How does travel help you in your writing? Did taking a vacation inspire a story, novel, or some other writing?


Writing Gratitude

I’m following along with Julie Hedlund’s 12 Days of Christmas for Writers. Yesterday’s video was about gratitude and while this post might echo some of the things from my success post the other day I thought I’d share the list of things I’m thankful for as a writer as we bring in a new year.

I’m thankful for the 12×12 writing community. One of my goals for next year is to participate in the forums more.

I’m thankful for PiBoIdMo. It was so fun to participate in this challenge and to come up with 32 ideas. Now I won’t be spending each month scrambling for an idea.

I’m thankful for the SCBWI community. Again, something I want to be more involved with but I got to meet SCBWI members I hadn’t met before and that was fun.

I’m thankful for the Loft Literary Center. I love the classes and conferences I’ve attended here and am thankful for the connections I’ve made in classes here.

I’m thankful for Molly Beth Griffin’s Picture Book Writers’ Salon I don’t get to attend often due to the fact that I usually work at night but I attend every one that I can and I really enjoy them.

I am thankful for clients who have used my copywriting, editing, or proofreading services. I was so overwhelmed with the excitement my friends showed over my new skill set and their willingness to use me as a copywriter, editor, or proofreader.

I’m thankful for a full time job in the arts. Being surrounded by creative people and being part of the artistic process keeps me going on this journey as a writer.

I’m thankful to my brother for telling me about fiverr and helping me think outside the box as far as getting my copywriting, editing, proofreading business started.

I am thankful that my full time job leaves me with the time and energy to pursue my art.

I am thankful for health challenges I’ve faced this year as they have motivated me to take more action in pursuing my writerly goals.

I am thankful to the agents and editors I submitted to last year. Many of them took the time to say something about the work I was submitting and while I haven’t gotten an agent, editor, or book contract yet the personal comments have been encouraging as I continue the journey to publication.


Celebrating 2014 Writing Successes

I can’t believe that it is almost 2015. The holidays seemed to fly by this year and it seems like it was just Halloween a week ago. Maybe it was the wacky weather here in Minnesota and the fact that winter showed up in early November and then it felt and looked like fall last week while I was finishing my Christmas shopping. Maybe it is because I worked on Christmas Carol for the last two months so I’ve been in the land of Christmas since November 6.

As I look back on 2014 I have a lot to be proud of. I feel like I’m making decisions in my writing career that will set me up for success in the future.

Children’s author Julie Hedlund, challenged participants of her 12 Days of Christmas for Writers series to post SUCCESSES (rather than resolutions) on our blogs this year. She believes the way New Year’s resolutions are traditionally made come from a place of negativity – what DIDN’T get done or achieved in the previous year. Instead, she suggests we set goals for the New Year that BUILD on our achievements from the previous one. I decided to participate in this Anti-Resolution Revolution! Here is my list for 2014.

Wrote 12 Picture Book Manuscripts for 12×12 in 2014.

Came up with 32 ideas for PiBoIdMo. That’s 32 ideas I can use 12×12 in 2015.

Posted manuscripts for feedback in the 12×12 forums. This was huge for me because I prefer to get feedback from people who I know in real life. I have had the experience of one well meaning comment on other online critique forums kill my story. But the comments from people on 12x were extremely helpful in making my story better.

Attended the Iowa SCBWI conference. This was such a fun conference and a great opportunity to meet new people.


Attended  Molly Beth Griffin’s Picture Book Writers’ Salon when my schedule allowed

Moved my blog. After years of blogging on blogger, the blog I started 10 years ago as a place to write down my thoughts wasn’t the right place to build my author platform so I finally made the decision to move my blog.

Ordered business cards. No more going to events and not having a business card to hand someone I’ve made a connection with. Now I have business cards. Yay!


Took a copywriting course and a copyediting course.

Participated in Julie Hedlund’s How to Make Money as a Writer course.

Began offering freelance copywriting, proofreading, and editing services and actually had clients! I am so excited by the support I’ve gotten from friends and how willing they were to use my writing services.

Began offering writing and editing services through fiverr.

Took myself on more artist dates. I made more trips to art museums and theaters this year in an effort to keep finding inspiration.

After years of being an amazing air guitarist, air drummer, and air pianist I purchased a ukulele and am learning how to play. I’m considering this a writing related thing because it is obviously providing research for characters in my YA and Middle Grade WIPs