When your career plans are (very) long-term

Not to equate life with shit, by any means, but they both happen. When they do, our best laid plans become challenges, and don’t let’s get started on where that leaves our dreams—a far too depressing thought for an upbeat morning blog post.
I’m a writer, and the main reason I write is to entertain. I want to tell stories and make people smile—and I’d love to do it full time, just not quite yet. When I first got re-bitten by the writing bug for the first time since high school, I was rushing manuscripts and queries to the inboxes of editors and agents alike. I was panting to get The Call. I felt like “Yes! This is my dream! All I need is to get published and watch the dollars pile up in the bank like McDonald’s ketchup packets in a hoarder’s kitchen drawer!” Since then, I’ve grown a lot little bit older and a little bit lot wiser…. The second version sounds much better, don’t you think?
So anyway, this older, wiser, me has been having a harder time of it than the young, naïve one. In my life right now, if I get 1000 words in a week, it’s celebration time. I’ve got a husband, a toddler, a full-time job and, in my time “off,” I’m going back and forth between two houses I’m renovating with the help of my aforementioned husband and the “help” of my aforementioned toddler. If I got The Call right now, once the thrill wore off, I’d be devastated. That’s because I respect the work, and realize my limitations. I know if I’m stretched as thin as I can go now (and trust me, ladies, these days the “thin” is purely figurative), then I don’t have the resources to put in the effort it requires to make a first book deal successful. I’m not trying to be a downer, just honest. I know getting that call is only the first step, and the all the subsequent steps will make your efforts to get The Call look like child’s play (and possibly be scarier than Chucky to boot). I know that a contract means working my ass off, which I am already doing in every other aspect of my life—except literally, of course! To make my dream work now, it would be at the expense of everything else, which I’m not willing to sacrifice.
I’m not squashing my dream, but I am readjusting it a bit. My career plan has morphed from it can’t happen fast enough to a bona fide ten year process. That might sound depressing, but it’s not—honest! Here’s: a) why it’s not depressing, and b) how I plan to make it work.

A) The Day Job: I work in higher education. I like it. In fact, it’s rewarding. But it is quite demanding, at least nine months out of the year, and I want to devote the time it takes to do a good job and make a difference in students’ lives. It’s not lucrative, but it is comfortable. Except for a lucky few, a writer’s advance is neither of the two, and I’ve lived long enough to realize that it’s not sound economic sense to assume I will be the exception to the rule. I’ve got ten years into the day job. In another ten, I can retire with partial benefits. If I can make it as a published author in ten years, I can write full-time, have the security of some sort of guaranteed income aside from writing, and my son will only be starting middle school. That, my friends, is what I call a plan!



B) The Timetable: Ten years seems like a long time. Trust me, it isn’t. Ten years ago, I was a carefree Florida girl who hung out at the beach every weekend and sometimes in between. Now? Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, just refer back to the third paragraph. It turns out, time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. That’s why I’m still writing, even if I have no plans to submit to an agent or a New York house this year. If my goal is to make enough of an income to retire after 20 years rather than 30, I need to have manuscripts and a following, at a minimum. Of course, this could always change depending on circumstances, but I see myself either self-pubbing or going with a smaller publisher first. This will allow me to grow my following and get my stories out there, while keeping my goals more achievable. If I keep going, I will get readers, and I will find a larger audience….and I will get an income that will allow me to pursue the dream full time within that ten year time frame.



C) A Point To Emphasize: This is not me giving myself a free pass to do nothing. I still must write in order to have the manuscripts to make my start, and I must keep writing to follow through on what successes will come. It’s more flexible than the original plan, but it’s still a plan, and if I don’t stick to it, in ten years I’ll still be in Nowheresville.



I didn’t pick today’s topic out of negativity, I picked it out of hope. Maybe some of you out there have a similar situation: feeling so overwhelmed by your day-to-day that your writing goals seem all but unreachable. If you do, know you’re not alone—and most of all, don’t think this writing dream is an all-or-nothing thing. You aren’t squashing your dreams, you are just readjusting them to fit your reality. It may take longer than you thought. You may start smaller than you thought, but it’s about doing whatever it takes to make your writing successful on your terms, in your life. You are the writer, you are ultimately the one in control!

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