Keeping On

“Become a writer,” no one said.

“It’ll be fun,” said absolutely no sane adult ever.

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is how long I’ve been writing, and my answer is always the same: writing since I was six years old, publishing since 2014*.

I’ve known basically since I learned how to put pen to paper what I wanted to do with my life.

It wasn’t so much a choice as the way my brain is wired. Chemically lined up to see monsters in shadows, to play out scenes in my head that have very little bearing on reality.

And, 90% of the time, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love that I never have an excuse to be bored, because if I don’t have anything going on, I can come up with stories to entertain myself.

I love that if ever I feel a bit lonely, I can hang out with people who exactly fit what I need in the moment and have good long chats with them.

It’s licence to have imaginary friends without caring what anyone thinks about me. It’s not insanity, it’s work.

That other 10% of the time. though…

The fact of the matter is this job is hard.

Especially if it is, in fact, a job. This is the way I earn money for things like groceries and mortgage payments and vet bills. As if that weren’t challenging enough, being an independent author means all the production costs are on me, so not only do I have to earn enough for bills, I need to earn enough to cover edits for the next book, a constant loop of production and profit where the goal is to keep the one relatively steady while the other increases.

This does not happen every month.

Of course not—it’s the arts. There’s a reason parents and teachers often warn young folk away from creative careers into something more practical. More stable.

It’s hard, and it can be so discouraging and disheartening when results you hope to see don’t show up. When you feel like you’re trying everything and nothing is working.

If it weren’t so rewarding, it would never get done, but, again, artistic endeavours aren’t so much choices as addictions. They trigger those little dopamine receptors in the brain that offer such a sweet little high, and all you want is your next hit, which can only come with the next idea — the next round of hyperfocus.

So that’s what I hang on to. The fact that although surprise vet bills and home repairs can put a bit of stress on the bank account for a little while is something I cope with, and if I need to return to the dayjob routine for a few months to top up the coffers again, then I shall! But writing will always be the thing, the goal, the priority, the focus, and even on the worst days, I’ll always have the satisfaction that I’m doing the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

This is also where a solid support team makes a world of difference. When I’m at my lowest, I have people I can count on to agree with me that life sucks but the only solution is to fortify and keep going. People who share my links and offer a quick pep talk. These people are my rocks, and I want to make sure to give them credit here because they should not be overlooked.

How do you copy with the rough days and keep yourself on track for your dreams?

*It’s actually 2013, when my serial collection Greylands came out, but as that is now out of print, I mark it from the date Evensong was released.

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