What’s SPOOKY About Being a Self-Employed Writer

I travel about once a month to teach, lecture, or read from my book. During these trips, I often get to talk to the folks who make these events possible. These are people who believe in sharing literature and making writing a viable career for authors, as well as an accessible art form for their participants. Making these connections always brightens my day. Usually, I work alone. Being alongside movers and shakers with their “fingers on the pulse” of artistic offerings and engagement with the public is exciting for me. I always learn something new, and usually come away inspired.

Inevitably, these conversations also turn to the fact that I’m self-employed. When I was on the book tour, the easy mistake a lot of folks made was to “idealize” or “romanticize” the life of a newly published writer. I encountered this line of thinking so frequently, in fact, that I wrote a series of blog posts discussing the nitty-gritty of my book tour (preamblepart 1, part 2, part 3), in addition to this tell-all interview published on The Billfold. Now that my business and my work as an author is slightly more established (If you’re reading this, you’re a part of that–thank you!), I often meet folks who ask, in so many words, Isn’t it scary being a self-employed writer?

First of all: I’m lucky. My parents had multiple careers and I got to see how they jumped tracks, went back to school or training, took financial and professional leaps, and eventually reaped the rewards for dreaming big. Those rewards? Satisfying work and a quality of life that was good enough, and most of the time–quite comfortable. Second, my dad left his work for the State of Oregon when I was in high school and I watched him start his own business, heard the way he talked about rates or clients or renting an office or negotiating new contracts, and some part of me must have been listening. If he could do it, I could do it.

Indeed, there were times during my three years on the road when being a self-employed anything during the Great Recession felt scary. But never in a way that would lead to ruin. Never in a way that made me question my decision. And certainly never in a way that made me have doubts. If anything else, negotiating uncertainty further fueled my belief that I could, and in fact would, make this writing life work. The best part, and the only thing that always remains no matter what the economy is doing, no matter who is President, no matter what state I’m in, no matter who’s “hot” in publishing, no matter what anyone thinks is that, at the end of the day, I love what I do. I write stories. I write essays. I try to live a full and conscientious life. I try to make sense of the world around me, even when the world I see is hurting or doesn’t seem to add up. I mentor other writers and cherish the friendships that develop through this process. And I meet other people who love stories, too.

Scary? Maybe. But mostly…? Absolutely fulfilling.

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