We all have a motivation behind our writing. Sometimes more than one motivation. It could be simply the love of the art, or it could be that you thought up something so cool you couldn’t possibly live with yourself if you didn’t share it with the world. Maybe it’s economic, and you want to be a professional writer/author.
My initial motivation was simply to embrace, nurture, and develop my creativity. I have a ton of ideas that need to be expressed, and writing gave those ideas an outlet. The secondary motivation — the motivation to produce and publish — is economic: I aim to generate auxiliary, passive income streams from my writing and other creative endeavors which will help provide an additional trickle of revenue for the rest of my life.
Potential for a New Career
If I’m very lucky, and people really like my work, then it may be possible to become a professional author and make a living on writing alone. This is my dream, actually, and I hope every day that I can produce works worthy of generating a sufficient fan base for a professional writing career.
I don’t feel that it’s wrong to discuss this, either. The relationship between author and reader isn’t parasitic; the author doesn’t simply exploit the reader and suck their wallet dry. Rather, it’s symbiotic: I create, the reader buys and (hopefully) enjoys my creation. The revenue from that sale allows me to produce more work for the reader to enjoy. It’s a beautiful cycle of reciprocity.
Let me tell you the story of why I need to do this:
Most of my life to date has been spent working in service-related work — retail, especially — with plenty of face-to-face customer service time. Now, I’m not particularly a people person, and to be honest I’m not even sure if that’s just the way I am, or if working with the public turned me that way.
To be honest, I sometimes feel as if I’m approaching the critical burnout point, where the stress and anxiety associated with my jobs will eventually mentally destroy me.
About ten years ago, I branched out of retail and went to work in medicine, taking a certification course for medical office administration, billing, and coding. Thanks to this career change I am now an encyclopedia of useless medical knowledge combined with a hot mess of rage, sarcasm, and splash of bitterness to round out the flavor profile.
I’ve spent the past nine years working in a doctor’s office, and five years also working a second job in a big box store’s pharmacy. I do some freelance computer stuff on the side, as well as driving for the two big rideshare services.
For the first five years of working in medicine, it was the only job I was doing. Forty hours a week, done and get out. I lived in a small, low-rent apartment and rode public transit, and my paychecks covered rent, utilities, and bus pass with about fifty dollars left over per month for groceries, household supplies, and other necessities. I literally lived on home-baked sourdough bread, ramen noodles, and multivitamin tablets for two and a half of those years, since it was the only way I could think of to make about thirty dollars stretch for an entire month’s food.
For most of the past five years, I’ve averaged about sixty-five hours of work time per week. I have no life to speak of, very little down-time, and I rarely sleep more than about an hour per night.
Frankly, this sucks.
Barely Getting By
All of this work, literally working myself to death, and I had nothing to show for it. No savings, no cushion in my checking account, literally living paycheck to paycheck, and I’m a month behind on all my bills. As a cost-saving measure, I don’t even have my own place anymore. I rent a spare room in the home of a relative.
It’s not that I manage my money poorly, it’s that I simply don’t have any to manage. All of my work adds up to less than $28,000.00 per year in gross income, and the area where I live — where I was born and raised — has a stupidly high cost of living. I always thought the cost of living issue here was especially messed up, considering it’s a seasonal town with something like 80% unemployment in the winter and over half the population living below the poverty line and having to collect public assistance (for which I personally do not qualify) just to scrape by.
Perhaps I should do some economics research in my next project to help me understand why it is that areas with large numbers of impoverished people and poor job prospects tend to have the highest cost of living.
I’m sure there’s an explanation, and I’m sure I’ll find it completely ridiculous.
Something Has to Give
I can’t just continue living like this anymore, realistically speaking. Something has to change for the better, and for the past few years I’ve been trying to find that something. I’m not really one to sit and cry about the issue that’s bothering me. I’ll complain, don’t get me wrong. But then I get angry about it and go fix it. Finding a new job hasn’t really been an option, though, because every job prospect I’ve found within reasonable driving distance is the same or worse in terms of both the job itself and the pay.
High cost of living + crappy jobs + low pay = no bueno.–me, just now.
Moving out of the area hasn’t been an option either, because I don’t have the financial resources to relocate. I’ve just been stuck right where I am, constantly looking for something that will improve the situation slightly.
Hint: buying a car was not that thing. I thought that would open up more avenues. Being able to travel further to look for a new job and being able to do the rideshare gig was what I hoped would be the key to a better situation. But no, it didn’t improve things.
HELP! THERE’S A STORY IN MY HEAD
I have been walking around with an epically huge sci-fi/fantasy storyline in my head for about the past fifteen years. At least that’s how long ago it started to form in my mind, but then it grew like a tapeworm and consumed my brain in a universe of dragons, space ships, magic, and alien gods.
This story universe is HUGE, and I could realistically spin out several entire series from the material contained in it right now.
But thanks to the aforementioned suppressed creativity, I’ve never let it out of my head. I think I’ve only told like three people about it in the entire time it’s been developing. But thanks to my recent re-discovery of my creativity, I’ve been tossing the idea around to actually write it. I even started and stopped on about a dozen previous occasions.
In my down time, I had been researching not only how to write a novel, but how to generate passive income streams which could supplement or replace my income. You see, I wanted to replace part or all of my current job income with a passive income stream or three, to free up my time so that I could focus on writing books.
At a certain point in that research, I came across the suggestion to write one or more books. I couldn’t believe the thought had not occurred to me. I could write my damned story and publish it. Then there would be people who might want to actually read this massive brain-parasite. Even if they didn’t, I’d be able to get it out of my head and onto paper, and I needed that release for therapeutic reasons. If it’s successful, I make money. If it’s not, I learned and created and lost pretty much nothing.
Either way, here is the point: This mind-baby needs birthing.–this one was also me.
Unraveling the Worm
I sat down in front of my computer about a month and a half ago and started to draft an outline of the story. I realized that it had become so big, so cramped, and so tangled up in my head that I couldn’t get it out in order. It started coming out in dribbles and bits. Fragmented pieces in completely random order. Undaunted, I continued with the plan and decided to just unravel it as it comes, and put it in order later. It’s kind of like taking dictation from a room full of stuttering people all at once. I hate it, and I love it, and it’s an amazingly huge and wonderful and terrible pain in my everything. I can’t wait to continue.
In my head, this process looks like that video floating around on social media, wherein a massive parasitic nematode is unraveling from a dead insect. I know, it’s gross. But it’s true.
Now, the sci-fi novels are going to be published under a completely different pen name, and when I get closer to publication and finalize that pen name I will disclose it here. I’m not using the pen name for secrecy, I’m just using it for separation of writing genres.
My B.D. Thomas pen name is going to be doing mostly non-fiction work, and that entire line of work came about due to suggestions from friends and co-workers. I frequently rant and tell war stories about former co-workers or the countless thousands of customers I’ve dealt with over the years. In these instances I tell quite vivid stories, painting pictures with my words which keep people entertained and laughing for hours.
On more than one occasion, I’ve been told I should record these stories in text and publish them. I decided to follow that advice, and to that end I plan to publish a small series of short books documenting my experiences in working with the public. I’ll sell them cheap, self-published, most likely through Amazon. Aside from generating potential revenue, I’m using these books as practice for the publishing and marketing aspects of the author-entrepreneur business model.
The creative process is the most important part of this whole venture, but if I can some day make a career out of it, I want to do that.
Goals Beyond Creativity: Economics
As I said above, if I can manage to make a career out of writing, it might just be the answer to every wish I’ve ever made. I know the chances of a new author “making it” and being able to go full-time are slim — especially an author with no previous experience or education in the field — but since I’m already creating for the sake of creating, it’s totally worth it to try for a new career while I’m at it.
Aside from the self-employed freedom of being an independent author, this career move would also give me access to — as Joanna Penn calls it
— scalable avenues of income. Writing a story once and then selling it forever and in multiple forms and markets is clearly a better and potentially more profitable option than my current arrangement of trading hours of my life for a pre-defined and wholly inadequate hourly wage.
If successful, I would hopefully be able to pay off my debts, finally get my own place again, save for retirement, get the dental work done that I’ve been putting off for twenty years due to finances, go back to school, and travel. These are all things I am completely unable to do at present.
After twenty-five years of full-time work experience, I’ve determined that wage-labor is very much not for me. Some people are quite happy in hourly wage service-industry jobs, and there is nothing wrong with that. Do what makes you happy. It’s just not for me. Not to toot my own proverbial horn, but I feel like I’m wasting my potential.
Goals Beyond Creativity: Seeing the World
One of the things I love about the prospect of a career in writing is that it’s location-independent. I don’t have to be sitting in my bedroom in New Jersey to write a book or a blog post. I could do it sitting in a cafe in Chicago, a hotel room in Seattle, or a sidewalk bistro in Paris. I can write anywhere I can use a laptop, and I can publish anywhere there’s an Internet connection.
A laptop, WiFi, and a comfy chair is all I need. This is a stark contrast and a desirable upgrade from the current situation, where I’m basically chained to this town and have very little opportunity — both in time and in financial terms — to travel.
This is important, because I want to see the world. I want to visit and explore. I want to blog my way around the planet. Meet up with those online friends I’ve known for years and never met in person. Being physically confined to a small geographic area while your interests remain global is quite possibly the definition of a living hell.
Goals Beyond Creativity: Teaching and Living Abroad
One of the many things I want to do, if I become free enough to do it, is get certified to teach English abroad. I have friends who are international English teachers, traveling country to country — staying for a year or a few at a time — teaching English to foreign students and immersing themselves in the language and culture of the host country in turn. They have long encouraged me to do the same, as they believe not only that I would be good at it, but also that it would be an amazing experience for me. I’ve looked into it, and I’m inclined to agree.
Over the years, I’ve looked into this a few times. In the past three years, though, I’ve become much more serious about it. I’ve decided I would like to pursue the internationally-favored CELTA certification, and teach in South America and Europe.
I’ve been slowly trying to learn Spanish (Latin America version) using the popular Rosetta Stone software online. It’s a cool system, really, but to become truly fluent you have to be immersed. My friend in Argentina agrees, and we’ve discussed at length how I should do this.
We’ve decided that I should visit there a few times to be sure I like the country, and then find a position, relocate, and teach there for a few years. This would allow me to gain teaching experience, see a whole new country and live its culture, and draw fresh new inspiration for my writing. Ideally, I’d then move on to another country, and another.
Or maybe I’d just go back home to the states. The point really is in having the freedom to make that decision in the first place and not being trapped.
I need to gain a degree of financial freedom first, though. This is where the passive income streams concept comes into play. It will require six months of part-time classes and several thousand dollars to get the certification in the first place. After getting the certification, my debts will need to be paid off before I can travel. I can’t leave bills back home unpaid while I’m working abroad for two years. It won’t make the situation any better.
I hope you’ve gained some insight as to why I’m doing all of this. It’s primarily a creative endeavor, but I’m hoping to turn enough revenue in the process to meet some outstanding needs, accomplish some goals, and make some dreams come true. I would be honored and delighted if you’d come along for the ride. As a writer/creator and introverted crazy person, I’m in need of not only readers, but friends and partners in mischief and shenanigans.
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