Being a writer is hard. That’s what they tell you when you’re ten years old and write an essay on what you want to be when you grow up.
You should have a backup plan. That’s what they tell you when you pursue writing as a career and you realize you’re going to be justifying that choice to strangers for the rest of your life.
What are you going to do about money? That’s what they ask you when they have no right to be asking you about your finances and no dreams of their own, so they poke at the holes in yours.
Of course, they’re all right. Every single person who told you that writing was going to be full of obstacles and challenges and rejections, every single one of them is right. Writing is hard and you should be able to fall back on other skills, and yeah, you probably will be broke, at least for a while.
But the truth of it is, writing – the whole writing process – that’s the easiest part.
Because writing isn’t just about writing. It doesn’t stop when the words are on the page, or even when the final draft gleams and glistens on the desktop of your computer. Writing isn’t just about editing or querying or handling rejection or long hours spent looking for an agent or an editor. Writing is also about marketing.
And that’s why it’s so hard.
I spend a stupid amount of time marketing my books. I run three blogs and websites, two weekly newsletters and at least five social media platforms for each of the three names I write under. These require weekly uploading, posting, writing, and monitoring. Today, alone, I’ve written over two thousand words, and not a single one was for a book. They were all my weekly blog posts to go into my weekly newsletter to keep my readers on their toes and coming back for more.
In all the questioning, curious, pessimistic advice I’ve gotten from people about writing over the years, no one ever told me about the marketing.
And I wish they had.
Because the biggest challenge of trying to be a writer, of making a career out of novel and freelance writing, is balancing that marketing with book production. It’s finding a way to keep the story rolling, even when you’re on a constant weekly treadmill of Facebook posts and newsletter building. It’s figuring out when you’ve had enough of one and need to focus on the other. It’s understanding that neither creativity or marketing is quantifiable and you will get frustrated. It’s frustrating.
Because we may be wonderful artists, dedicated to our craft, building our skill and dedication with every passing day, but under no circumstances does that make us good at promoting it. And promoting it is half the battle– or more. Writing– or art or music– comes easily to us. We want to fight for it, work for it, grow at it. But marketing isn’t fun and it isn’t interesting. It’s a distraction from the work we love, a necessary evil we must contend with in order to move forward.
I wish someone, even one of those pessimistic faces asking me about when I’m going to get a real job, had told me that writing was the easy part. Writing was the part I wanted to do and that takes away the pain, makes it easier to see the finish line. The challenge probably won’t come from writing itself but from the tricky work of turning writing into a business, of being willing to be a little shameless, to promote and tell people about what you’re doing, to drag readers to your work, if that’s what it takes.
This balance isn’t easy and it isn’t fun. If I could drop marketing altogether, my productivity levels would increase remarkably, I have no doubt of that. But I can’t. Just because I write a book, doesn’t mean they’ll come, I’m not there yet, and I’m only going to get there if I market. It’s just the way of things.
So, for now, I’ll look at it as a means to an end. Marketing is the only way I get to continue writing. Turning my craft into my business requires sacrifices and challenges. I am working toward a career.
But if you’re working toward a career, add this advice to the list of all those questioning, disbelieving faces who don’t understand why on earth you want to be a writer. Writing is the easy part, if you’re not ready to run a business, go find something else to do.
I certainly wish someone had told me that. ♦