Friday, May 06, 2011

The Road Not Taken

Writers become writers because of money or art. It's not an admission we like to make, but it's true. You cannot earn money while remaining pure and true to the art. And you have to pimp yourself via self-promotion in order to make a living. Otherwise you best have another income, a roommate with money, or a trust fund, because it takes toil and sweat to earn a living as a writer, not just a passion.

But...there's nothing less noble in writing for a dollar first. In reality, once you establish yourself as a writer able to earn a living, you often buy time and financial means to pursue your art.

FundsforWriters was my second choice of writing profession. My first was mystery novelist. For two years I wrote weekends and nights on a mystery, hoping it would sell and propel me into stardom and allow me to leave the 9-to-5. It didn't. FundsforWriters did.

Writing friends asked me why I didn't write grants for a living. Gag me, I thought. I deal with finances, grants and loans all day. What kind of getaway is that? Then advise others how to find grants and earn a living, they said. One in particular said it loud enough to make me listen. I asked her to teach me how to write a newsletter and off I went. FundsforWriters was born. If I couldn't be an artist - a novelist - I could at least write editorials, freelance and hawk myself out for writing gigs.

Now I have readers, a platform that's not too shabby, and guess what? I found the means and time to write the novel. So I did. An agent accepted it. A publisher accepted it. My head still spins that it's happening. I thought I sold my soul to the business aspects of writing - nonfiction - feature writing. Instead, I'd paved the way to the first dream - writing fiction. It wasn't until I'd supported my writing career with a solid foundation that I found the ability to pursue the dream of a mystery novel.

We don't always find our way in a straight line from Point A to Point B. Sometimes we have to detour, get lost, find another goal, and return to start wiser and more endowed. Sometimes we have to let opportunity lead us by the nose, even if that opportunity isn't what we'd select.

  • Write journalism to buy time and money to pen poetry.
  • Write press releases and white papers to afford time to compose plays.
  • Create newsletters and blogs to built a platform from which to sell your fiction.

Don't be deaf and blind, much less ignorant, to other options. Become a writer first. Build a platform, hone the craft, earn a living. Then you'll have the latitude to call your own shots to write what's really in your heart.

The Road Not Taken
by Robert Frost
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth; 5
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same, 10
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back. 15
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.


Anthony J. Langford said...

Well said Hope. Great article and once again, congratulations on achieving your dream. Your determination is really what got you there. You're an inspiration.

Sioux Roslawski said...

Hope---As usual, your advice is spot-on.

"Life" is not a's the journey we take as we head to where we think is our goal.

Writing is the same thing. It's not the novel or the acclaim we chase--always just out of reach. It's the blogs, the writing groups, the grant groups we are part of, the church newsletters we create, and so on. It's the path we take as a writer...

And as the kids today, it's all good...

Janise said...

Great post Hope! :-)

Karen Lange said...

Thanks Hope, you always have a straightforward and encouraging word. My journey has taken quite a few detours but I'm getting there, and loving the process.
Happy Mother's Day weekend,

Julie Nilson said...

I'm doing just what you describe--writing articles, white papers, press releases, and other corporate material to pay the bills while I write fiction and try to get paid for that! Bonus: When both of your jobs are "writer," you don't have to break them out separately on your income tax return. :)

widdershins said...

Ah-hh the scenic route, beats the freeway every time!

T. Powell Coltrin said...

Good points.

Oh favorite RF poem.

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

Great post, and I, for one, really love your newsletter. I just entered a poem in a contest and am working on a travel article to enter in another contest. Thanks for all the good information.

Meanwhile, congratulations on your agent and publisher! I'm really happy for you. Let us know when the book comes out.

Susie - Walking Butterfly said...

wow, this is so good! Thank you for what you do Hope, you give me hope!

Hope Clark said...

I enjoyed writing this one immensely. So happy to hear it struck a chord with so many. Thanks for reading.

Jarvis said...

No one becomes a writer to make money these days. LOL. Whoever feels that way is sorely disillusioned. Fame and notoriety are a whole other thing.