When I first tell people that I'm a full-time author they generally have one of two reactions. Either they wrongly assume that I'm some rich writer with a 7 figure publisher deal, or they tell me how they had a dream of being an author but that it would never be possible for them. So I thought that I would share some of the lessons I've learnt since deciding to become an author back in November 2018. I'm still learning and figuring things out, but I hope that by sharing some of my experiences, you can cut to the chase on your own author journey, if that is genuinely, in your heart of hearts what you want to do for a living. I should warn you now, that the road is long and hard, but it isn't impossible, provided that you want it enough.
A Bit of Context
OK, so first things first. I should tell you up front that at no point did I intentionally sit down and decide that I would become a full-time author, it kind of just happened, by accident. You see, I was living happily in the Lake District but my my landlords suddenly notified me that they were selling the property I rented for them, and so began my struggle to find a place I could afford, that would allow pets, It was impossible. They all wanted at least 6 months rent upfront, plus two months deposit, a sum of around £9000 for a manky old place with no heating and lots of damp. I was working like crazy to make ends meet each month, and when I sat down and thought about I realised that all I wanted in life was to have time to go wild swimming as much as I could, and to have lots of lovely hikes with my little dog and time to play with my three cats. It was an incredibly stressful time, because no way would I give up my pets and the prospect of being truly homeless was terrifying.
As luck would have it, I found a property that I could buy, on the other side of the country, in a place I'd never been to before, and it looked like I might just be able to get a mortgage, and the total cost of the mortgage would be a fraction of what I was paying in rent. Plus it would be a place of my own, brand new, with no damp or mould or dodgy floorboards.
I sold everything I owned and travelled by train with one rucksack and a pet carrier. Three trains in total. I found a guesthouse as close as I could to the property that allowed pets, and was supposed to complete in 7 days time. But that all changed, when the mortgage company suddenly decided that I wasn't meeting their 'affordability' assessment even more. All because I was £4 short on what they considered affordable, and even though my mortgage would be around £100 per month compared to the £1000 a month I'd been paying in rent! My world was turned upside down and the feeling was awful. I felt trapped and helpless in a place where I knew no one and missed everything I had come to love.
The Silver Lining
Once I had calmed down and started to re-evaluate the situation, I actually came to the conclusion that this was likely the best thing that could have happened to me, and that if I continued to work from 'home' with my couple of regular clients, then not only would I be able to make ends meet, but I would also be able to pursue my writing - something I had only recently started doing after participating in NaNoWriMo. I did a lot of sums and realised that not only would I be able to buy a house in the Lake District for cash, but I would be able to buy the house of my dreams - provided that I work hard. The working hard bit hasn't been easy at all, and I'll share more about that in future posts, but the important thing to note here, is that if you are currently stuck in a rut and feeling really miserable, and all you want to do is to become a writer - then go for it, but be prepared to make sacrifices.
What I Should Have Done in Hindsight
Had I known then, what I know now. I wouldn't have messed around so much or wasted time and money on trying to buy a house and getting a mortgage. Instead, if you want to be a full-time writer, my advice would be as follows:
Basically you need to take a long hard look at every single penny that you spend, and every item that you own or subscribe to, and see what you can do to get your overheads down as much as you possibly can. A really good book that helped me with this was Alvin Hall's 'Your Money or Your Life.' I purchased a copy second hand from Amazon, having read it several times when it very first came out. This is one of the few things I would spend money on at this stage, but you could also get it on Kindle as an ebook, or from your local library for free. Start saving the pennies now. But you'll likely come back to this book in the future or when you need a gentle reminder so it's a avery good investment in your future. It is more geared to the UK audience since it accompanied the UK TV series, but it will still be of benefit wherever you are in the world.
I'll be tackling things step by step in future blog posts so don't get overwhelmed by how much there is to think about. For now, just write a list of what you spend and see if you can find ways of cutting down your costs. Even if you stay in your current home, look at comparison sites and see if there are any better deals out there for utilities or credit cards and things. Good luck!