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.