Thursday, February 05, 2015

Dreams, Priorities and Money

Brainstorming on my chalkboard wall
One of the scariest aspects of my decision to focus on fiction for 2015 and to take on less client work is where the money for paying bills is going to come from.

On the surface, I have a good framework set up to achieve this goal - a stable home with enough room for a home office, a freezer full of  a variety of vegetables from my summer garden, an Autumn garden just starting out and Internet access to research and write my stories. I even have a little bit of cash for bills and some luxuries. All I need to do is to knuckle down and write, edit, polish and submit my stories, then rinse and repeat.

For the past couple of years, I've done well enough writing non-fiction and blogging. But now that I'm facing this new writing challenge head-on, I'm stuck on the thought that being an IT journo, freelance writer and blogger is not an indicator that I can write fiction. And even if some of my fiction is accepted by publishers, will readers like it enough to buy it?

Also, what if  I do get published but don't sell enough books to make a living? That is the fate of many authors who have to have day jobs to subsidise their  royalty income. Keeping that reality in mind, is it wise to want to make a living from fiction or realistic to even try?

 I'm old enough and experienced enough in the writing business to know that my chances of success are miniscule. Yet, wise or not, I know I have to at least give this phase of my life and writing career a good try. I spent a big chunk of my career focussing on non-fiction because I had figured out how to sell my services to potential clients.

I was grateful for the work and enjoyed, even felt passionate, about some of the projects, as they resonated with my own values. So I have no regrets for doing the work and hope that in future, I will still be given the opportunity to work other non-fiction projects that combine my knowledge, skills, interests  and values and still pay well.

But more than a millenia years ago when I was still a child growing up in very rural, dusty Phokeng, my greatest dream was to write novels. That is why I entered this business in the first place.

The village didn't have running water or electricity or waste disposal then. I'd attended part of my Grade 1-2 under a tree, so the local schools didn't have a libraries then.  So becoming a novelist was as far-fetched as moving to Mars. Yet, that was my dream.

Now I'm at that stage in my life where I have a fighting chance to succeed as a fiction writer, I have to give it a good try, or I will fail that little girl who read everything she could get her hands on and dreamt that some day someone would read something she wrote.

Not trying would also be failing people like my father, who believed that I could succeed as an author despite the odds. He did everything he could to support my writing career even if we both looked like stupid dreamers back then.  So for him and that little girl, and many other people who supported me along the way, I have to do my best.

 Still, my fears refuse to stay silent. Some days the nay-voice is so loud that it drowns out the stories that I could be writing down. That's when I start working on Plan B, C or D, for when I fail as a novelist. The alternative business plans are sound enough and would be brilliant plans actually, if they were part of my dream.

But this past January, I realised that no matter how well thought-out and packaged any business idea might be, for me it is still another way to procrastinate from writing. If I'm focussing on Plan B, I'm not failing as a fiction writer. Except, not trying means I am failing. So this February I resolved to say "Not for me, thank you" more often.

Of course I might have to change my tune by the end of the year and beg for work, any work, even crappy sweatshop-type projects, if the fiction writing doesn't gain traction.

I know it's very unlikely that I will make a good living from fiction within a year or two, so I'll still need to do some client work to pay bills, but my plan is that by the end of the year I will have placed some good projects with publishers, and be in edits for some of the projects.And that can only happen if I put most of my focus on the writing process.

In the past four months I've submitted three children's books with a local traditional publisher and intend to finish a couple more and submit them too. I also have a novella that is making the rounds with epublishers. I have no idea whether they will like the work or not, but my philosophy at this stage is that, the more I have polished work out there being seen by publishers, the better my chances of placing some of the manuscripts.

So my main writing job in 2015 will be to write as many stories as I can and once they are ready, find homes for them. Wish me luck!


Anonymous said...

Go, Damaria ! When we met in Mmabatho (25 years ago !) I have a very clear memory of you - in your house, surrounded by Stephen King novels - articulating your dream of being a a page-turning fiction writer ... Believe and Dream Big ! Chalkboards are awesome ! Much love, Susan Davies x

Alison Fourie said...

Be positive, the more positive you are the more rewards you will reap. Keep a positive mind-set while writing, tell yourself each book is going to be successful and that you are going to be a successful writing. Positivity rules the day. Warm regards Ali

Damaria Senne said...

Thank you for your encouragement. I'm still writing. It's hard, but people like you are what encourages and motivates me

Lindsay Neumann said...

Hello Damaria

I was so inspired to come across your blog yesterday. I too broke away from writing for business - to marry, raise a family and start writing about subjects that I am passionate about. Thus far, I have written two children's stories - one of which is a short picture book in Xhosa - but I am still spitting and polishing. My next wish is some kind of life experience or travel novel. Up till now, life as a mum has taken over and I'm still trying to get my head above the washing! So, I shall continue to follow your blog as inspiration. Well done! It's quite a big thing to put your certain income generation aside to follow your dream. However, it is often said in those wonderfully motivating women's magazine articles, that if you follow your dream the success and income will come. I hope, at the very least,to pass some nuggets on to others. We all learn from each other. And, I already have learned from your chalkboard style - fantastic idea! I wish you everything of the very best and hope to meet you some day.

Warm wishes
Lindsay - Western Cape

Damaria Senne said...

Hi Lindsay

Thanks for stopping by. I know how it is when the big focus is on family and raising kids. I know it's a cliche, but enjoy them while they're young. Baby, whose growing up I blogged about here for years is turning 17 this year, and last weekend she was going to a matric dance and she looked so beautiful, but my heart still couldn't understand that she had a date.

I do look forward to sharing my experiences here and if and when you have a minute, please don't hesitate to also share.

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