IMPORTANT: Due to recent (2011) changes in publishing, some sections of this article—marked below—are obsolete.
See FAQs On Self-Publishing for what has changed, and what you can do about it.
There aren’t many things that go without saying in writing; one of the few is that most people who write at all dream about writing full-time without the hassle of a day job, too.
First let me tell you that if you’re looking for something you can do to walk away from the job tomorrow, I don’t have the answer for you. It took me about eight years from the time I decided that I wanted to leave nursing to write full-time to the day in November of 1993 when I was able to give away my stethescope and do it. And even then I did it wrong, and jumped too soon, and cost myself some momentum and some money.
However, if I knew that by staying in nursing for another five years, I could have had an easier time now … I think I still would have jumped when I did. Writing full-time is as cool as you might ever hope it would be on the good days, and scarier than you can believe on the bad ones, and I wouldn’t trade any of the rollercoaster ride that it has been up to now for the security a few more years in the day job could have given me.
First things first. If you are wedded to the idea of security and you like knowing that you’re going to be able to pay your bills on time every month, kiss the idea of full-time writing a permanent goodbye. At levels of success higher than those I’ve yet reached, I imagine money is a bit more secure.
At my level—which is fourteen or so books in print, all in a solid genre that generates a good audience, no single title breathtakingly successful, but several that have earned out and pay regular if small royalties—it is an adventure. And remember that the definition of adventure is “some poor shmuck having a hell of a hard time of it a thousand miles away.”
I’m doing what I love, and getting paid for it, and I wouldn’t do anything else unless I were in imminent danger of starvation. Life doesn’t suck. But I’m one of those people who never minded a bit of adventure. And even for me, sometimes the sheer amount of adventure makes the whole thing dicey.
So how do you go about telling the boss and the 9-5 grind goodbye forever? Read on …