What’s it like to be a writer?
Someone asked me once what my daily life looks like as a writer. I wanted to respond with: ‘boring’, but I guess it’s not. I’m living my dream, and I’m grateful that I can. I am keenly aware of this rare opportunity. Granted, it’s been a bumpy ride getting here and there will continue to be bumps along the way. But so far, I like the view from this seat.
There are two aspects of my life as a writer: The day to day and the financial.
My day to day is probably more like everyone else’s than people realise. The flexibility I enjoy is the fundamental difference.
I’ve lived a corporate life. Waking to the sound of an alarm, dressing in professional garb, stewing in peak hour traffic, and sitting through endless (and sometimes unnecessary) meetings. I’ve run around on my lunch break, trying to take care of all the errands needing attending to. Only to sit in peak hour again, make dinner, work some more, before finally spacing out in front of the television, trying to forget that I would hit the repeat button the following day.
Now, I wake to the sound of fishing trawlers heading out before dawn and kookaburras laughing in the budding light. I get up and head to the dining room where my husband has a cup of coffee poured for me. I peruse the news and social media sites as I watch the world wake around me. Sometimes we have bunnies or a wallaby in the yard. I grab breakfast, take a walk, shower and am in my home office by 10 am, dressed in yoga pants, a long sleeve t-shirt and socks. I’ve already done some work by then, either jotting down thoughts about my current work in progress or adding comments or updates on social media.
Once in my home office, a converted bedroom, I focus on the writing. I churn out the words or the tick off the marketing tasks until my belly tells me it’s lunchtime. Grabbing something quick for lunch, I’ll continue working until around five, sometimes longer if I’m on a roll.
At that point, I close up my office and head to the lounge room. I usually have my iPad or laptop with me, and I will check social media and email again while enjoying some tea or wine, before I put it all away for the night. If nothing is pressing, I’ll spend awhile reading.
My husband and I take turns making dinner. I love the slow cooker or throwing together quick dinners, like cheese plates or making chicken quesadillas. My husband is the risotto and curry guy. Once a week we attempt to cook together, but the kitchen isn’t big enough for two. It’s a bit awkward honestly. Whomever cooks, the other cleans. That’s how we say it works, but usually we get in there and tackle clean up together.
The rest of our evening is low key. I’ll grab whatever craft project I’m working on (usually knitting or hand quilting) and we will stream a show or two. Australian television isn’t the best and we’re not fans of reality television, so streaming works for us. By ten o’clock, the television is off, and my husband heads off to bed. I stay up for another hour or so. This is my down time. It’s dark and silent, inside and out. The only noises I’ll hear might be the possum on the porch, or the occasional devil screaming bloody murder outside. If I can’t turn my head off, I’ll use this time to write a short story or something that I’ve been mulling over. It’s better for me to get this stuff out.
Now the other aspect: The financial picture.
Going from a corporate gig to freelance writer to now author has been a major financial shift. But, as I’ve shown you, our life is simple. We rent a house an hour and a half away from a capitol city, between two small fishing villages. Most of our neighbours are ‘shackies’, which means there are holiday homes all around us.
We found this house after renting it as an Airbnb. When we needed a place to land after travelling full time, we approached the homeowner and asked if we could rent the house long term. While you may think it’s costly living in what was once an Airbnb near the water, we negotiated a lease rate with the homeowner that worked for both parties. With the COVID outbreak, it became even more clear that this was an ideal arrangement.
Living remotely though has its drawbacks. Social events have to be planned. There is no impromptu ‘meet for a coffee’ scenarios. We don’t have access to major fast-food chains or shops. (Perhaps this is a good thing). We create our menus in advance because we pay convenience store pricing when we need to shop locally. A close eye is kept on the petrol gauge every time we head to town, as the cost of petrol is much higher remotely. And, now, the only sealed road available to us towards the city is closed for ‘several weeks’, which means it’s a 7 hour round trip detour. It’s inconvenient and costly, but I also know many are far worse off than we are.
Despite the few challenges, we love it here and, as I said, it’s quiet. And that works extremely well when I’m focused on writing.
Financially, this writing life differs immensely from my former life.
I don’t have a consistent paycheck. I watch book sales closely, looking at trends, analysing what marketing is working and what isn’t. While I don’t have the disposable income that a corporate paycheck allowed for, I manage to remain debt free.
I no longer have the corporate perks, like health insurance or paid time off. But I create my own schedules and deadlines. I may work non-stop for two or three weeks if the writing is going well, then take a day off. Other times I may work three days before I need a break. Nor do I have a dedicated IT staff. If the website crashes or a Facebook change costs me two months of content, I have to figure out how to fix it. One thing that still surprises me about the writing life is how much time I have to spend on marketing. I try to dedicate just one day a week, but often it turns into much more.
Without the consistent income, we don’t qualify a home loan. I also don’t qualify for grants the government offer, because I don’t earn enough to qualify for them (see above with the highway shutdown). Every hour is an hour to earn, but I’ve learned to work smarter, not harder. Travelling full time taught us to understand what we need vs. what we want. That has made life much simpler for both of us.
Is it scary not to have that consistent income? Sometimes. For my husband, always. We have a cushion, thanks to that corporate life. But I’m doing what I love. My incentive isn’t about money. It’s about creating the best story I can so readers will want more. I want to create interesting and engaging novels for as long as I can. That’s the ultimate goal.
Perhaps my life is boring. I work extremely hard, but I do something that gives me great pleasure, with the added benefit of flexibility, providing me with the lifestyle I have always craved. I will take that over a corporate paycheck any day.