As much as I love to write, I’ve often wondered if pursuing it as a career is the right choice for me. Having had the opportunity to try it out it a couple of years ago, I found myself unable to cope with the long, unstructured day. So what does it take to become a successful full-time writer?
Here to explore this topic further is author Francis Guenette. I had the pleasure of reading Fran’s debut novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight while vacationing in Mexico last spring (check out my full review here). Fran’s newest novel, The Light Never Lies, is the next book in her Crater Lake series, and it’s available now. She’s here to share her thoughts on writing for a living.
Gwen’s recent post on being a full-time writer, versus wedging writing into a busy life, led to a great discussion among her followers. Within the stream of responses, one theme was repeated – having the whole day to write meant not getting much writing done at all. I wondered about this more-time-equals-less-output scenario and what the underlying message of such a dichotomy might be.
Varied stops along a single roadway – that’s the phrase I would use to describe my own career path. Imagine walking down a street, chock full of restaurants, trying to decide where you will eat – fast food, falafels, Italian, Chinese, Greek. It’s all food but the variety is what makes life interesting.
The single roadway has been education and the repeated motifs have been work that was largely self-structured and work that didn’t garner a lot of prestige or money. When it came to making the career transition to full-time writer, it was simply the next stop.
I face the challenges I have always faced – how to work amid the distractions of the home environment, how to balance output efficiency with creativity and how to deal with the lack of status that comes from not being out in the world making scads of money.
Author Francis Guenette’s work space.
To be a full-time, stay-at-home writer, is to battle doubt on a daily basis. The world tells me that what I’m doing doesn’t make sense. The reasons are obvious. Self-publishing isn’t really publishing. Looking ahead five years to a time when (maybe) I’ll make money and even then, it won’t be status-gaining money, is crazy. Writing is too time consuming to ever justify itself, unless I become the next J.A. Konrath or Amanda Hockings – a highly unlikely prospect.
What do I have at the end of an average writing day to show for my efforts? I may have sat around the house the whole time in my pajamas sweating to write 500 words. And yet, the struggle, at every step of the writing process, is part of bringing a well-honed story to life. Few people understand that; some days, I’m on the list of doubters, myself. Validation, both outward and inward, is hard to come by.
My primary solace is something I learned early in my working life – the only critic I need to satisfy is the one in my own head. When I’ve managed that feat, the need to justify how I spend my time, what I produce, what I say, do or think, becomes unnecessary. My work will speak for itself.
And the work of creating good stories matters more than many people understand. I’ll end with a quote that has always made me shiver at the responsibility we take on when we tell stories.
“In a fractured age, when cynicism is god, here is a possible heresy: We live by stories, we also live in them. One way or another we are living the stories planted – knowingly or unknowingly – in ourselves. We live stories that either give our lives meaning or negate them with meaninglessness. If we change the stories we live by, quite possibly we change our lives.”
(Nigerian storyteller, Ben Okri)
As circumstances spiral out of control, Lisa-Marie is desperate to return to Crater Lake. The young girl’s resolve is strengthened when she learns that Justin Roberts is headed there for a summer job at the local sawmill. Her sudden appearance causes turmoil. The mere sight of Lisa-Marie upsets the relationship Liam Collins has with trauma counsellor, Izzy Montgomery. All he wants to do is love Izzy, putter in the garden and mind the chickens. Bethany struggles with her own issues as Beulah hits a brick wall in her efforts to keep the organic bakery and her own life running smoothly. A native elder and a young boy who possesses a rare gift show up seeking family. A mystery writer arrives to rent the guest cabin and a former client returns looking for Izzy’s help. Life is never dull for those who live on the secluded shores of Crater Lake. Set against the backdrop of Northern Vancouver Island, The Light Never Lies is a story of heartbreaking need and desperate measures. People grapple with the loss of cherished ideals to discover that love comes through the unique family ties they create as they go.
Francis Guenette is the author of The Crater Lake Series – Disappearing in Plain Sight and The Light Never Lies. Set on the shore of a Northern Vancouver Island lake, her novels are rich in rural life, family dynamics, and romance.