Writers are taught to let their characters and plot drive their stories forward. Most of us understand the organic process that takes place when a sideline character suddenly takes on a bigger, more integral role in our written art. It is a thing of awe and beauty when it happens.
We also understand that it's not all complete magic. Letting our stories develop takes a bit of pantsing and plotting. This mix of pantsing and plotting is equally applicable to our personal lives.
Plotting My Life
I didn't begin plotting my writing life until after I became a mother, but even then it wasn't immediately after. As I've mentioned in previous posts, I knew I was passionate about writing, but I didn't actively pursue a career in writing until 2016. In that year, something sparked inside of me and from that moment on I questioned why I hadn't taken my writing more seriously when I was younger.
The plot for my writing life looked something like this:
Not much of a plot, right? I didn't even think hard enough to realize that I would never outline a plot that simple for a novel, so why would I do it for my personal life?
As I worked on my first novel—which I realize now, though it was well written, was written to fit the trend of the times rather than come from my heart—I began to read and learn from the experts. I really paid attention to what the people that had actually built success in the literary world had to say about building a successful writing life.
It can be easy to be stubborn about it in the beginning. If you picture yourself holed up in a writing cave, secluded from the world as you type away and watch your titles climb the best sellers lists, it can be hard to listen to experts tell you that this wouldn't be the best strategy in achieving a sustainable writing career. Meaning, if you actually expect to attain a salary that you can reasonably survive on, without having to resort to ramen noodles every night, you may need to consider other options.
It didn't take long for me to decide that I needed to plan out my writing life. I wanted to change careers, and have that new career revolve around writing. But, I have a mortgage, a family, and other expenses, so, I followed the advice of writers like Stephen King (On Writing) and Jane Friedman (The Business of Being a Writer) and I laid out a plan.
My New Plot Unfolded
I've taken the plunge and I am back in school this fall. I will finally complete my education with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Economics, with a Concentration in Marketing. I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, but an incredibly supportive family behind me to push me towards my degree by next summer. The fact that I came so close to finishing college but never did, tormented me for years. A lack of a degree can be crippling. When you are in a room full of accomplished people, it can feel embarrassing to know that you never achieved that goal, even if no one else in the room is aware. This year, I learned that copywriting is not only something that I do every day, it's something that I am really good at and this degree will elevate me from copywriter to marketing expert.
I am starting my own business. I expect that sometime between now and the end of 2020 I will launch my Greeting Card and Stationery Company, Lozano Paperie. I have begun to lay down the foundation and I am preparing myself for this adventure. Lozano Paperie will celebrate the Latinx and mixed-culture experience via greeting cards, stationery, and various accessories. It's a completely different direction than what I expected for my writing journey, but for once it doesn't feel like I'm settling. Writing clever lines for greeting cards and stationery and creating illustrations is a fulfilling form of creative expression, especially when the underlying reason is to show my pride for my Latinx community during a hostile time.
My novel has grown and evolved into a beautiful piece that I can't wait to share. I fully expect to be sending it off to the world of querying by the end of the first quarter of 2020.
2020 will be a big year for me! I am putting that out into the universe. I claimed it, and visualize the success for me and my family every day!
Back in 2016, when I first contemplated making a career out of writing, this is not what I had imagined. This is much better!
Please don't mistake this post as an opportunity for me to brag. It's the opposite. This is a whole-hearted thank you to everyone that has taken part in this journey with me whether they knew it or not, including you, reader.
Maybe working with different writing mediums isn't for everyone. I'm sure in some cases it's a necessity for the sake of bringing home a sustainable income. For me, it helps to improve my skills, grow, and open doors. But, it also offers me a refuge when one area or another is feeling uninspired.
Literary Work Available Other than Novels
I'd bet that more than anything you really want to call yourself a writer. You want to be taken seriously but you also want to give up that day job that gets you by while leaving you feeling dead inside.
I was there too. Writing for a living felt like a far fetched dream. My day job had me feeling like that proverbial hamster in a wheel. But, when I changed my way of thinking about what being a writer really means to me and when I learned that so many of my favorite authors work in multiple mediums in order to supplement their lifestyles, my future opened up.
I have tangible evidence to prove that altering the way I thought about my writing life has helped to shape it, but I think positive visualization for the continued growth of my career is as important as the physical proof. The more that I put myself in my new frame of mind about my writing life, the more that opportunities arise to shape it. I have always been a believer in positive affirmation, however this is also about actively pursuing a thriving career in writing.
A couple of things that you can do
Browse the writing section of your local bookstore. Amongst the how-to and reference titles you will notice that there are books that touch on topics like resumés, technical writing, copywriting, etc. This is a good area to get an idea of the types of professional writing jobs that are available.
Scan through the top freelance sites such as Upwork or Fiverr. These sites are teeming with all sorts of artists and skilled workers offering up their services per diem. Search through the various freelance writers and take a look at the jobs they have completed and the skills that they list. You'd be amazed at how many people pay for someone else to help them with their resumés or to write content for their websites.
There will always be negative Nancys out there that claim that paid written work is dead. They'll tell you to search for another career because being a writer is a dead end. But, I do not agree. I think your writing life can be whatever you build it up to be. I believe that you can begin by supplementing your written work with a "real job" and slowly shift the balance between your income from writing and that of the "day job" until writing is your only job. It's working out that way for me, so I can attest to it. I even managed to find a way to make the job description for my "day job" include writing. I took every email seriously. I showed off my skills and it paid off. Now, when it comes to letters, marketing material, or emails, I am either consulted with or asked to provide the content. While it's wonderful to have expanded my role at work, and to have increased my salary while doing so, I have also given myself more experience that I can take with me and use elsewhere. Stephen King talks about having a toolbox with layers of writing skills filled within; due to my active search for other forms of writing, I have been able to tuck copywriting, branding, and marketing into my toolbox.
Another piece of advice from Mr. King: read!
Every writer needs to be an avid—almost maniacal—reader. The list below contains all of the books that have opened up my eyes and world. I share them here with you because one, I promised that this blog would share all of the ups and downs of my writing journey, and two, I now understand that there is plenty of room for all of us to succeed. We do not have to keep what we have learned a secret as if we are Gollum from Lord of The Rings and success is our preciouuuuuus.
Take a serious look at this list and an even more serious chance on yourself. I think it will be worth it.
On Writing by Stephen King
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Business of Being a Writer by Jane Friedman
Still Writing by Dani Shapiro
Business Boutique by Christy Wright
If you have other inspirational books that you'd like to share, please leave me a comment. I am always in search of good reads! Next on my list to read is The Success Principles, recommended by writing friend Kristen Kieffer of well-storied.com, another successful writer that isn't afraid to share her knowledge.
Thank you for reading, friend. Keep writing!