Goals and the Working Writer.

Earlier this year, Cara McKenna wrote a blog post over at Wonk-o-mance entitled The Last Taboo, What one Writer Earns. In the post, she reveals that after 6 years of being published (six writing), she has finally accomplished her goal of earning in a year the same annual salary she made as a full-time graphic designer. McKenna is traditionally published in the erotic romance genre (definitely a popular genre at the moment). She is careful to stress that this is HER experience and your mileage may vary. In response to my question in the comments she said depending on the week, she works anywhere from 20-40 hours a week on writing and the associated tasks (revising edits, promotions etc.).

“It’s a full-time gig, but I don’t do well if I work much more than 40 hours. And I can’t procrastinate—I work terribly under pressure. I have to set weekly goals to make sure I don’t get stuck writing 5,000 words a day in the run up to a deadline, since I can’t physically do that. I thrive on discipline, not adrenaline.”

I’d love to be a best selling writer; New York Times, USA Today, Amazon Bestseller, I’d be tickled purple to top those lists. It would cool to be a recognized name like Nora Roberts, or Steven King. BUT, I’m a pragmatist. Some might go so far to say I’m practical to a fault. It’s my belief that to achieve that kind of success, you must work hard, be committed to your goals and have a laser focus. I write contemporary romance, I’m a mom and a wife and out of necessity, I work as a marketing communications professional. I’m not afraid of hard work, and I am committed, but laser focus for my fiction work-in-progress? Yeah, not so much, I just don’t have 20-40 hours a week to dedicate to my writing. Yet.

Right now, my goals are focused on being a working writer and after reading McKenna’s post. I’m ok with that. I have to maintain reasonable definitions of success or I’ll lose my mind. I’m a goal-oriented person, but I’m also easily overwhelmed by large goals. I have a tendency to put the cart before the horse and become paralyzed thinking about things like promotion or getting an agent. Neither of which is ANY concern without a story!

Don’t get me wrong. You should always be challenging yourself, pushing your personal comfort zone and striving for improvement. But sometimes it’s important to set intermediate success goals and to be cognizant of HOW you are defining success. Is your definition of success reasonable or even attainable give your current circumstances?

The Last Taboo was an eye opening and educational post. Even if it is just one author’s experience (although a few others share their earnings in the comments). In the next 2 years I’d like to earn $1,000.00 from my writing with that number increasing as my kids become more independent. What are your Short-term goals for your writing? Long-term? Share them in the comments. Use monetary figures if it suits you, but don’t feel obligated.

Lee Laughlin is a writer, wife, and mom, frequently all of those things at once. She blogs at Livefearlesslee.com. She has been a member of the Concord Monitor Board of Contributors. Her words have also appeared in a broad range of publications from community newspapers to the Boston Globe.

18 thoughts on “Goals and the Working Writer.

  1. I get a little hung up on the fact that I’m not prolific so sometimes I feel like I’m falling behind. It’s just not how I work, though, so a goal for me is to just work at my own pace. Having more people read and enjoy my work would be great too!

  2. My goals aren’t all monetary. I would love to bring awareness about my cause, help for children with chronic illnesses and their families. That is my short term goal. My long term goal is to establish a non-profit organization for them.

    • i think we all have that in us, being human i call it. its hard to be disciplined especially when you are at your pace, what i do is make a promise to myself that it must be done, and i try to reflect on the day at night to see if all really went well.

  3. I’m with you – a slow and pragmatic writer who knows it will take years and thousands of hours of work before something magical happens. Regardless, I’m preparing for lightning to strike and for all of my dreams to come true. Dream big, work hard and believe in yourself! Anything is possible when you refuse to give up no matter the obstacles. Best of luck with your writing!

  4. This post is so timely for me. I’ve been trying to really get my blog going lately – and actually turn my passion for writing into a living — but with a full time job and a million other goals it’s hard to regularly pump out writing that will meet my own standards, much less become a Best-Seller.Like you, I tend to put the cart before the horse, and I’m doing my best to remind myself to enjoy the journey.

  5. I know I was born to put words on paper, and although I have known this about me for such a long time, I know I have been lazy and always keep on piling unfinished writing projects, from articles, to poems to short stories. I need to be more focused and dedicated and so I set a short term goal of finishing all my writing projects in progress by the end of 2015.

  6. As someone who is very new to writing, my short term goal is to make sure I find the time to pick up my pen at least twice a week. It is very hard to balance the home/work/writing life all at once but I am trying to be as disciplined as possible. I have been well and truly bitten by the writing bug and I am part way through my first attempt at a psychological thriller. Thanks for the post!

  7. Having a family and being the sole provider makes it hard to pursue my writing in the professional sense. On top of that, my employer expects me to be growing professionally. Now I’m just working on building my portfolio and honing my skills to be as sharp as I can be as a writer. “Work smarter, not harder” some say. I look at it this way: if I can excel in the craft of fiction, that is the solid foundation that may break open the floodgates to becoming a full time writer of fiction. I only have a clear short term goal, to send out some short stories and get at least one published in a magazine this year.

  8. My goals short term are to get my blog (Historical Fiction Addicts) busy with followers commenting, author interviews and guest posts. I have only been going at this since the end of December and have already 5 authors request book reviews, done two author interviews with another coming up and am seeing my blog followers going up. (Yay) Long term I want my own writing to get published. That’s my big hairy audacious goal! I have written one novel, a historical fiction piece, that I have been submitting to agents/publishers and am working on another YA Fantasy novel. I have a full time teaching job and drama directing position, plus two busy children so I too must be diligent and disciplined in my writing. I think that is the nature of this calling, don’t you?

  9. Loved the honesty of this post. Most of us write from passion–for a cause, for a story, for a character–and only worry about money when we need to pay for a marketing campaign. How refreshing to see someone candidly address the practicality of earnings.

  10. Encouraging post! My goals are becoming more specific in the last few months – which is good! I need to become much more prolific than I have been lately and I’m hoping to get published somewhere and in some form this year, which means hard work and facing some fears

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