How many times have we said this to ourselves, “I can’t wait until this is over, and I can just write!” It comes out in different scenarios, like: “I’ll start writing seriously when I save up enough money to quit my job,” or “I’ll be able to write more when the kids are older,” or “I just don’t have any time to write now, but I’m sure after this busy season, I’ll be able to make time.”
We imagine that someday, there’ll be a peaceful season of full-time writing, when we’ll have nothing to do, except make coffee in the morning, write for a few hours, go for a long walk, and come back to do a little more writing before we call it a day.
Sounds amazing, right?
Here’s the harsh truth: You have to become a successful writer before you can become a full-time writer.
Every single successful writer is first a struggling writer on the side. Writers have full-time jobs in the beginning. They might be lawyers (Susan Cain) or pastors (Max Lucado) or copywriters (Daniel Steele) or CEOs (Michael Hyatt) or parents of young children (JK Rowling). These people started writing long before they ever had time to write, long before they were paid to write, long before anyone thought they would make it as a writer.
And then, yes, they published books—usually five or more books—and then were making enough money to write “full-time.”
Are you willing to publish five books before you become a full-time writer?
Do you have that kind of patience and perseverance?
Or were you hoping that someone would just come, pick you out of the crowd, and say, “Him, he looks like he’s going to sell a lot of books some day.” Or, “Her, she’s got great stories and a lovely turn-of-phrase, let’s make her an author.”
It sounds a little silly when you think about it that way, doesn’t it?
But we all do. We hope that someone will just see our innate talent and give us the gift of being paid to write full-time.
Instead, what we see is that successful authors write and publish several books before they’re making decent money. That means, they write a full first draft of a book, which then goes through editing, design, publication, launch, and continued marketing. All of that can easily take one year if you’re self-publishing, or five years if you’re traditionally publishing.
And then they do it again.
And somewhere along the line, they start making some money. Then, a little more. Then, a little more. Until, finally, they can quit their day job and “just write.”
But, the funny thing is, even full-time writers don’t simply write every day.
Most authors have responsibilities beyond writing. They’re the primary marketers of their books, and you can bet that takes a lot of time. Successful authors are out there, giving interviews, organizing book events, and traveling to speak.
Oh, you think a publisher would handle all of that? Yeah, wouldn’t that be nice?
But, nope, a huge portion of the book launch and continued book marketing falls fully on the author’s shoulders.
So, it’s kind of like a successful author has to be a professional marketer and a prolific writer.
Is this vision exciting to you?
Imagine spending your day writing 2,000 to 5,000 words, then switching into marketing mode and giving an interview, checking up on the logistics of next week’s book signing, and pitching to be a keynote speaker at a conference that’s six months from now.
That’s the vision you’re actually working toward if you want to be a full-time writer.
And how do you become a full-time writer?
First, you publish at least a few books and market the heck out of them.
Then, you’ll be on your way to becoming a writer + marketer.
So, should you quit your day job to become a full-time writer? Nope, absolutely not. Find those pockets of free time, and use them for writing and marketing, until you’re well on your way to replacing your full-time income.
It’s what all the greats have done.