This is the first in a series of posts where I’ll outline my plan for April 1 and beyond. Some of it will venture into the nitty gritty of things like selling my house and finding a place to live, but most of it will be my personal process for moving from being someone who writes to a writer.
My sincere hope is that eventually, when I become a world famous novelist of insanely addictive YA and heartbreakingly poignant with a touch of awkward NA, people from around the globe will read my blog and buy my books and tell me what a genius I am. On Saturday mornings I’ll wake up before Kris and find an email or two from readers who point out something I could have done better in my last New York Times Best Seller and I’ll link to THEIR blog and watch their fame grow because, clearly, they are brilliant and I totally shouldn’t have missed that.
It’s important to have a fantasy. But it’s better to have realistic, attainable goals and a way to get there. Kind of like how people who are dieting post a picture above their desk or in their closet of what they want to look like or a dress they want to wear*. It’s something that keeps you going. The thing that keeps me going, despite my first paragraph, is realistic and, like the dress, something that has to be worked toward.
So, what’s my goal? What’s my roadmap? How the heck am I seemingly not neurotically** staring down the fact that a month from tomorrow will be the last day of good pay and benefits?
A Realistic Income
In May I decided to try my hand at freelance writing. We’d been kicking around the idea of leaving but we’d never viewed it as anything more than our long-term goal for our life: moving back to Vermont. Sounds simple, right? Not quite. While there are about 100 people who do what I do in my organization here in Michigan, only six or seven of the same job exist in Vermont. I tried for one of those jobs once (obviously I didn’t get it). I have a BA in English (but as our friends over on Avenue Q taught us: people with said degree really only have one thing to say… or ask) and I could, feasibly, get a teaching job if I were to relicense. But that leads to further problems (which I’ll explore in my next post).
Freelancing is not a viable option for most people. It takes a tremendous amount of work on the front end that is neither glamorous nor well paid. You can’t just hang a shingle and say, “Hey, I’m a freelance writer! Hire me!” Instead, you have to get out there and start seeking work. And in the beginning your brilliant 300 words gets you anywhere from a dollar to maybe five. If you’re lucky. I found, quickly, that I had a knack for it and things I liked to write about and was knowledgeable enough about that I could take it to the next level. I quickly scored my first steady gig and then my second. But I’m not rolling in dough from it. In fact, most of what I made and continue to make quickly gets spent on things like writing books. But I have a plan and now I have experience and so Kris and I set a goal, albeit a modest one. 40 hour work week, $7/hour. Yes, freelancing is not for the girl with champagne tastes. And, if you’re looking for a freelancer, I don’t cost $7/hr. That’s just a benchmark we’ve set to plan a budget. Which brings us to the next goal.
Have a Realistic Budget
We live pretty well right now. We don’t cook as much as we used to (Ann Arbor is a sinfully tempting foodie town), travel pretty much whenever we want, and regularly host exchange students (teenagers are NOT cheap). Luckily Kris is in finance and understands personal finance better than the average bear. We’ve had many a conversation about what we can afford on just his income plus my $7/hr.
Those conversations led to several changes we made early.
- Our fancy gym with it’s $200/month membership? Nope. We now go to Planet Fitness for $20/month. And, folks, it’s the same damn thing except no classes (which we never took), pool, and basketball court.
- Our DirecTV subscription? While it’s great, let’s face it: who watches tv anymore? We were never big TV people and we have an AppleTV with access to Netflix and other streaming services. Sure, Kris is going to lose NFL Sunday Ticket, but he can watch his beloved Saints online.
- We have subscriptions to things that were great when we were both pulling in a good salary, but right now it’s all about examining wants vs. needs. And focusing solely on the needs. I’ve given up my beloved subscription to Audible and will get a library card when moving to Bennington. I couldn’t go cold turkey, so I did sign up for Kindle Unlimited… I’ll post more about that once I get a sense of whether or not it’s worth $10/month.
- While a much larger issue, we also had to rethink what we want in a living space and how much we’re willing to pay. Our current home was purchased in 2008 with the idea of starting a family and staying in it. We’ve since decided that kids are not for us. Which means we don’t need so much room. Our home buying plan for Bennington is much more modest. Let’s face it: we spend most of our waking hours in the kitchen/living area at the back of the house. Kris is going back to the office so we don’t need three bedrooms, etc. Small, affordable, walkable. That’s the key.
The theme, for us at least, is REALISM. I’m not even to the writing stage of my novel, just outlining. Who knows if I can get an agent in a year, or two. Traditional publishing is tough. So rather than put the cart before the horse, we’re focused on the bare minimums. If I am able to publish that just means building our savings and going on vacation.
Have A Realistic Schedule
Being a writer is not all berets and coffee shops. I know, that is probably the saddest statement ever written. But like any job, and I assure you, writing is a job, you have to work. Every day. And work hard. I have always found that I write best in the morning. Before the clutter of a day gets in the way. Before my brain has started cataloguing and processing everything else. So, despite the fact that I can’t stick to it now, I have developed a plan for what my Monday-Friday will look like once April 1 hits. It will probably require several revisions as I learn what my 37-year-old self needs versus the writer I was in high school/college. But for now…
6:30 a.m. wake up, coffee, take out dogs and feed them.
7 a.m. 100 minutes of Pomodoro writing.
8:30 a.m. check email
9 a.m. walk dogs
10 a.m. 100 minutes of Pomodoro writing
11:30 a.m. housework (laundry, grocery list making, whatever else needs to be done)
12:30 p.m. gym/exercise
2 pm Freelancing work
5 pm start dinner, throw in laundry and put away stuff from morning
pm revision, writing, invoicing and other logistics
I’m sure it sounds like “not much writing” although I write faster than most. Also, in case I haven’t mentioned it, this is new and who knows what I’ll actually end up with. Writing is like anything else you want to make a habit, you have to figure out how to start without burning out and then increase it. Considering that if I allowed myself to all I would do is play outdoors and read, I’m proud that my schedule includes things like laundry.
I’d like to try this out once prior to April 1 and have vacation time banked so I might. It will be interesting to see how much I actually get written. Of course having an actual, completed outline would help. But I’m working on it thanks to my very favorite outlining guru’s method. If I do try it out I will be sure to let you know how it goes.
For now, though, I like things in threes so there are the first three pieces of my plan. What am I missing? What would you include in yours?
* To keep everyone sane, the dress is neither blue with black nor white with gold.
** My neuroses are in full force, have no fear.