Sometimes, having a grand life dream just sucks.
Here are two simple stats I wish I’d known fifteen years ago:
1. Only 1 in 10,000 books gets published via the slushpile (ie, by just sending it to “sir/madam” at a publisher who seems to fit).
2. Authors who are doing pretty darn well – ie they’re published, and selling well enough to continue selling one or two books each year (and to have the time to write them) – generally earn around $10,000 per year. Many of them write full-time. That’s about $5/hour – not counting expenses.
And maybe I’d have benefited from some other stats about the rate of mental illness and/or divorce for writers.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’d still write. If I spend more than a couple of days without writing, I miss it badly. And I was lucky enough to know from an early age that writing doesn’t make you rich (okay, there are perhaps ten fabulously rich writers IN THE WORLD, and another hundred earning a respectable amount. You’re more likely to win lotto than be one of them. There are a LOT of writers in the world, and not enough readers to go around – I recently heard 87% of Americans want to write a book some day, and only 50% have actually read a book in the last twelve months).
I’ve mentioned before than Ian Irvine says it takes 10,000 hours to get good at writing. I also mentioned that I was halfway – I’ve been writing to a self-imposed quota since 2006.
Lately I’ve been taking (another) hard look at my writing “career”, and realised it could easily be five more years until I’m accepted for book publication. I wrote myself a five-year plan (with “actually get published” at the very end) to try and teach myself to accept that this is how it’s going to be.
Ever since realising statistic # 1, life has looked a lot darker. I temporarily lifted my mood by signing up for two more conferences (a rational thing to do after finding out how important contacts are, however scary and expensive the experience), but why would I go to so much effort when nothing’s going to happen for so many more long and soul-crushing years?
So I made a new plan. A better one. One in which I manipulate mathematics for personal gain.
I re-counted my writing hours. Here’s the breakdown:
School English classes (uni is part of school): 2000 hours.
School projects (practising written expression): 650 hours.
Quota hours: 5000 (by end of this year)
Stories written in my own time: 100 hours (primary school)
160 hours (high school)
200 hours (Year 11 and 12 – I wrote over 50,000 words in just two manuscripts, and entered a LOT of short story competitions in order to take advantage of being able to enter youth competitions).
Gap year: 400 hours (I hand-wrote a 200,000 word book)
2001 (first year of uni): 210 (among other things, I typed and edited that hand-written book. And wrote another 50,000 word book.)
2002: 130 hours (I wrote most of my first fantasy novel)
2003: 50 hours
Two National Novel Writing Months (I don’t remember which years): 200 hours
2004: 700 hours (I became obsessed with finishing the fantasy trilogy, and at the end of that year I sat down and estimated how much time I’d spent writing)
2005: 200 (I did fifty hours editing for the National Novel Editing Month, and wrote another 50,000 word book, plus short stories).
Well! Wouldya look at that. Turns out I’ve ALREADY done 10,000 hours of writing – or at least, I will have by the end of this year. So I’m probably pretty good by now.
And we’re back to the manic-depressive state of, “Are they gonna call me today? How about tomorrow? Any second now. . .”
Which is horrible and unhealthy, but better than despair.
Play along at home: Spend just one hour pursuing a dream (however big or small). If you’d like to be a writer*, write something!
Personally, I’m going to go and check my email. Perhaps that six-book deal is sitting there waiting**.
Coming sorta soon: The Dark Dinosaur (tomorrow)
Experiment on your pet *maniacal giggle*
In the meantime, here’s your Flickr.com photo for today:
*you poor sad schmuck
**It wasn’t. But maybe NOW!!!