When I was a kid, I was a daydreamer. I could sit and stare out a window and make up a story while everything else in the world went on in real life around me. I could get lost in the fantasy that was as real to me as anything going on outside the fantasy. The people I created were real to me. It was the same with books I read too. The characters were friends, people I liked or hated, enemies I feared. When at school during the day, I thought of them. I wondered at what they were doing when I was stuck in class with nothing to do. I was a good student, but a bored one. I loved school in general, but hated it too, for very different reasons.
Anyway, my mother used to tell me that I would never meet a man who would please me, because those ‘romance books’ I liked to read were not realistic and no man would ever measure up. It’s funny, because while I did read some teenaged romance books (like Fifteen, by Beverly Cleary–I loved this story as a kid. Even though Stan gave Jane an ID bracelet in the story to ‘go steady’. I have wondered if they’ve updated that, ’cause I don’t think many guys wear ID bracelets any more and I’m not sure people give things for ‘going steady’ either. For me, it was the high school class ring, but my boyfriend in high school, his mother wouldn’t let him do that, ’cause she said the ring was too expensive to give it to some girl. We wore lettermen’s jackets in school too, for the boy we were going steady with. It was a big deal to be given a jacket to wear–’cause everyone KNEW. That was a big deal in high school, for people to KNOW.
It’s funny, because when Ryan and I started dating, I didn’t tell anyone. I wanted to keep him to myself for a while longer, before I let the real world step in. I wrote about our first date on my blog after the fact. I wish I still had that blog post. Ah, well.
My point is, I was a daydreamer. Still am. That’s a good thing for we who are writers. I write all the time, even when I’m not at the keyboard. I constantly have stories going on in my head, constantly am daydreaming their lives, constantly. Constantly. So that by the time I sit down a the keyboard, their story is already done, they’ve lived it, and all I have to do is write it for them the way it happened.
I guess this is daydream building…
But today, I’m not really talking about daydreaming. I’m not talking about dreaming in general. I’m talking today about building dreams for the future.
DREAMS OR NIGHTMARES?
There are people I know right now who are struggling financially, several of them. Heck, in a way, I’m one of them. We are really tight on money because of my health issues in particular, but for other reasons too, all inclusive together, and while it’s nobody’s fault but our own, it’s still rough.
I am one of the fortunate ones: I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I know there’s enough to eat, I have shelter, I have warmth and cool, plenty to drink and eat, plenty to keep me active, happy and as healthy as I can be. There are those who cannot even say that… and I don’t mean in a third-world country. I mean, perhaps, even right in your neighborhood. You could have a neighbor in your own neighborhood living in a house that is in foreclosure, waiting every day for the day the bank comes to kick them out and lock them out, eating only the cheapest canned goods they can scrounge up, wonderful what to do with pets they love and can’t afford. And you’d never know.
How do I know this? Because there was a time in my life when *I* was that neighbor. I was a single mom, with two kids, living in a house that because of circumstances was beyond my current means. I’d borrow a potato from one neighbor, saying I hadn’t picked up enough for my recipe at the store, and borrow a couple of eggs from the other neighbor, because I was low on them and didn’t have time to get to the store, and borrow some sugar from another neighbor… and I’d use those ingredient to make our entire meal for our little family of three. Cat food became the cheapest box of dried stuff I could find, and canned tuna or salmon when it went on sale at the store in the scratch and dent aisles.
Every month, the late notices rolled in. Every month, the termination notices rolled in. But every month, somehow, some way, the bills got paid and we always ended up with food in our bellies. We never starved, and somehow, my kids never ‘felt’ poor. I worked hard to make sure they never felt poor. For in so many ways, we were abundant. Sure, we would have loved steak instead of ground processed beef stuff, but we sometimes had beef stuff, so we had more than some. Sure, dessert would have been nice sometimes, and oh, my kingdom for a piece of fresh fruit (one of my weaknesses), but I never sent a kid to bed with a belly grumbling, and they were never cold and they were never scared.
So if you have that, and your health, then you have everything… even if you think you’re struggling right now.
STRUGGLING WITH DREAMS
It’s hard as a writer to hold fast to your dreams, because writing doesn’t pay the bills until you get in and dig in somewhere. There are those who will sell out and those who won’t, and there are very different meanings to the phrase ‘selling out’ when it comes to writing. To me, selling out is doing something you hate and find morally or otherwise objectionable, just because you want to pay the bills. Sometimes, we all have to do things that aren’t pleasant to make ends meet, but if you are working for a company that makes you feel slimy, that’s not going to get you anywhere in life, and you don’t want slime on your writing career. Recently, a good online friend of mine quit working at Y!CN, because he finally got to the point where he didn’t want to feel slimy any more.
I have another friend who is struggling financially, even while building up a promising niche writing career. Another just told me they were canned from a job they had such high hopes for and had probably put many eggs of the basket into. Yet another is looking at going back to work in a ‘real’ job.
But then, I know those who are making more writing right now than they ever made in ‘real jobs’, and they are doing it well. And it takes work. It takes long, hard hours of pushing and doing and submitting and rejections to get to the acceptances. I once told you a stat: even the best of writers only sell about 40% of what they write the first time. So if you’ve not yet reached that 40%, you haven’t been doing it right. And if you’re feeling like you’re getting a bunch of the 60% of rejections, that means you’re just one step closer to that acceptance.
At my heyday of writing freelance, I’m not making this up, folks, I was pulling in a 6-figure income for the year… with NOTHING but writing.
But to do that, you have to work. You can’t take it lazy. You can’t play games on Facebook, and you have to limit your other internet activities. You have to put in full-time hours to get the full-time pay, which means getting up in the morning, sitting at your computer, and working through just like you would if you had to get dressed and go to an office–but you get to be thankful that you get to sit on your couch with your laptop, or in a recliner like I do, or in your pajamas, also like I do, with your coffee or tea or snacks or whatever, with your dog at your feet and your cat on the back of your chair… can’t you put in eight hours like that versus eight hours in heels, pantyhose, makeup and suits? I would much rather work like this–but you HAVE to work.
And that means you have to submit.
And that means yo have to be rejected.
No, not prepared for rejection. REJECTED. Big stamped letters across your forehead: REJECTED. And you take it up the arse and move on and do it again, and again, and again, and again, until your back aches, your brow sweats, and there are spontaneous tears rolling down your face… and then *ding*, the email goes of and you blink twice, stop breathing, blink again, and then exhale fast and furious: Congratulations! the email reads. And you nearly pass out and fall over, thinking for sure it’s spam. But no, it’s an acceptance. And yes! They want to pay you $300 for the piece. Not too shabby.
I thought my heart had stopped the day a scientific psychology journal wanted me to write an article and they were advancing me $1500 bucks on it. ADVANCING it to me… that meant MORE was yet to come. Another $1500, to be exact, for a $3000 article. Now, granted, it took me two weeks to research it and a week to write and vet it, so we’re talking a lot of work. I had to go to a small college campus and interview students about a topic to get it done. I loved that assignment. It was about sex too, which made it all that much more fun! Ha, I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is… (sigh), no.
BURGER BARN PRICES, OR BURGER FLIPPING–YOUR CHOICE
I hear some people really put down the content sites for people who want to be writers, but I do have something to say about them. If you can make minimum wage or better writing for content sites, which would you rather do: flip burgers or bag groceries for minimum wage or stay at home and write content articles in the comfort of your home, where you can set your own schedule with no boss but you, and make the same kind of money or possibly even more, without any boss looking over your shoulder? The choice for me was easy and I got my start in freelancing by writing content for ezine newsletters. $50 per newsletter article, and $20 bucks for editing others and proofing them. I could bash them out all day long and made damned good money.
IT’S NOT THE DREAM
I hear you though, I do. This is not the dream, not even close, but you are building to it. Every week, submit to one place out of your league, one place you think is just one step up higher than you can achieve, and keep doing that. One place per week, because you never know when the right piece hits the right editor at the right time, and you get that big pay off. Then, when you do get the big payoff, don’t take that as ‘extra’ money. Figure out how much content you’d have to write to make that much, and how long that would take you, and take that time off to use ONLY to submit to bigger markets. That way, if you don’t sell a single other bigger market piece, at least you broke even and came out with a bigger byline than you had before; but on the off chance that the extra money gives you the time to get another bigger piece accepted, you can repeat the process, and slowly but surely, as the bylines and tear sheets build in your portfolio, you will be building the dream.
And you never know when you start getting your byline out there what they will do for you. I have gotten a local column offered to me a few years ago where I could work from home, $800 bucks per month to write two columns per month, and maintain them. I turned it down, because I was leaving the area when it was offered to me, but the offer was still a great one. There’s a lady here in Houston I love to read who writes humor columns for the Houston Chronicle, and she ended up with a bit of a following, and so when she signed her first book deal, her book debuted as #1 on the NYT best sellers list. THAT could be you.
You don’t think so? Well, if you don’t try to build the dream, it won’t be you. But what I’m trying to say to you is, some people go out and write books, get an agent, get published, hit the best sellers list with the first try and become overnight sensations. I think 2 people in the world have done that. The rest, they started by writing for newspapers, or internet sites, and working through the trenches and then getting a few things published, then a few more bylines, then maybe a column, then a spot on a really popular and big blog or internet site, then asked to write or collaborate on a book, then get a book deal, then debut in the NYT best sellers list… not because they are lucky. Not because they are even that naturally talented, but because they worked hard, learned their craft, treated it like a business, and they succeeded.
Writing isn’t easy.
Writing isn’t easy.
Writing isn’t easy.
And not just anyone can do it well.
But you can learn to do it well and you can be successful at it an you can make your dreams come true.
BUT, I WANT TO WRITE FICTION, NOVELS, YEAH
Yeah, me too. What are you doing about it? Me, I have four finished and seven in the works. Two are currently in rotations being submitted to independent publishing houses and to agents, while two are in the completion/editing stages. The other seven, I try to write something in each of them at least once per week, and when I get on a roll it will be daily. I’m sick. I spend many days in bed, unable to even sit up or hold my own head up, unable to breathe without an oxygen cannula in my nose, and currently am in so much pain (my back is spasming so badly it’s curling my toes up and my foot is hugely swollen from it) that I have to keep wiping away spontaneous tears from my eyes… and here I am, writing to you about how… ready for the cliche? If I can do it, what’s your fucking excuse again?
Pardon the language, but I think I’m trying to make a really harsh point here. I’m usually the nice person, the encouraging person, the one who says, “Come on! You can do it! Yay, you!” But we all need a wake-up calls sometimes. If this is you, then here it is:
What’s your fucking excuse? Why aren’t you writing?
If I can do it, you can too. If you don’t have at least one novel finished, but you are whining to me that you want to be a writer and make a living writing fiction, I feel no sympathy for you. If you aren’t working on at least one query letter or sending out at least one query to an agent and/or editor every week, then I have no sympathy for you. If you aren’t in the process of working on a subsequent novel, already in the works, then boo hoo on your cheerios, dude. And if you aren’t writing and submitting short fiction stories to major contests, literary journals and genre magazines for your style of writing at least one per month, minimum, then you’re not a writer. You’re a dreamer. You can be both. You SHOULD be both.
Why aren’t you?
What’s your excuse? Because I guarantee you that I can beat you and play one-up on every single excuse you have. Unless you’ve been in the hospital facing death on multiple occasions in the past year, I’ve got you beat. And I had my laptop, IN THE F’ING HOSPITAL, and I was coming out of the IVC filter surgery telling the nurse all about my latest thriller concept and how I couldn’t wait for the medication from the surgery to wear off so I could feel my fingers again so I could get the idea down on paper before it went away. I fall asleep at my computer sometimes, my hands still on the keyboard.
So tell me again, what’s your excuse?
Do you want to be a writer?
Okay, then BE one.
Love and stuff,
PS: As for dream building, do you see that image at the top of the post? That is the Macy’s Table at Cullen’s, one of my favorite upscale dining establishments in the Houston/Galveston area. That table is suspended from the ceiling with a catwalk that leads you to it. You can look down on the lowly diners in the main dining room. It is $2000 bucks minimum to rent the table, and it seats 12. The guests get a special meal, served by the chef himself, and a grand tour of the facilities and the kitchen, with special dedicated waitstaff just for your business. When I launch my first book that makes it on the NYT best sellers list, I plan to have a book launch party in that restaurant, with my family and close friends in the Macy’s Table with me, while everyone else is downstairs in the main dining room. I’ll eat with my family and friends, then join everyone else after the fact. I WILL make this happen. It’s my dream that I’m building toward.
You can buy my latest novella psych suspense CELESTE on Amazon.com to help me build my dream!
So tell me in the comments below: What’s your ultimate writing dream?