Every author has that make or break moment when they have to decide just how much faith they have in their writing career. I’m going through one such moment myself, right this second. Not to wax philosophical but two paths are diverging in my yellow wood and I must decide which traveler I will be.
On the StoryGrid podcast not too long ago, Tim Grahl discussed his life-changing decision on whether to take a ‘real’ job or continue writing full-time. To believe in himself and continue pushing for his dream meant emptying bank accounts and getting money from his parents to pay his mortgage. It was do or die.
I remember thinking at the time, just a couple weeks past, that he was quite selfish for choosing to allow other people to pay his bills while he worked on his dream. He had kids to feed.
Now, I’m not so sure.
My situation isn’t quite as dire, but the existential dread feels like it is.
Around this time last year, I made the decision to stop ghostwriting. My daughter, in all her thirteen years of wisdom, told me if I kept putting off my novel someone else would write it and get rich and I’d be crushed. Of course, she was right.
I’d spent so many years writing for other people that I never had time for my own work. So, I walked away in slow motion. In the year since, I’ve finished my novel, written the next one in the series, and planned out the next two and a half years of releases.
Then, an old client reared her lovely head and begged for help. My replacement flaked on her, as can happen. She needed a book written in three weeks and was willing to pay top dollar to make it happen.
It just so happened that I was in my ‘between books lull’ and very willing to take her top dollar. I wrote the book, got paid, and lived happily ever after.
Until the sharks starting sniffing the chummed up waters of my revived profile. A flood of offers came in, some meh and some insanely appealing. And this is where the tough decisions lie.
Since I stopped ghostwriting, my ‘quick and dirty’ income dwindled quite a bit. I was prepared for that and willing to make the sacrifice. Now, the lure of new projects wanted to reel me back in and I found myself in the same mental place I was a year ago. It would be so easy to take these jobs and crank out book after book for quick money, and feel rich for a moment.
It seems like a no-brainer, especially at this particular moment when I got myself into a financial bind. The quick money would help a lot and it’s so tempting to drop everything I’ve worked for this year and go back to sure money.
The only problem is, I’d have no time for my own work. My scheduled releases would flounder. My reader base would dry up. And, if I survived the onslaught of work, I’d have to start all over again with my series.
Also, I see ghostwriting as renting, not owning, your career. There’s no residual payment, no making money while you sleep, and no security.
So, I had a long talk with my assistant (another new perk of focusing on my own career) and she made me promise not to backslide. If I defy Mistress Josey’s orders, I get the pink sparkly whip. But… that’s a post for another day.
Before now, I always did what I wanted in the here and now. Hence the two decades of ghostwriting for fast cash instead of investing in the future. My joke was always that it’s future Toasha’s problem. I’ve really screwed her at times in my life.
I know I make light of it, but it truly was an agonizing decision. It was a lot of money. There are birthdays and summer vacations and stupid car payments that could have benefited from those ghostwriting jobs. But, future Toasha and future Toasha’s family deserve the security that comes with a writing career versus small writing jobs.
It’s about time I put them first.