I started my writing career as a poet, so I was writing for free--or for copies--when I started getting published. Getting published and gaining a readership were the rewards. Having my words read at all was the prize. Money? I hadn't even begun to contemplate it. Moving into short fiction was about as lucrative, but there were bursts of money, prize money--three hundred, one thousand dollars. But over the course of years, that income averaged to about 1.50 a month. I moved from short fiction to novels and I managed to actually sell my first novel. Of course, if you divide ten years of writing classes, practice, revising into my first advance, I made 4000 a year from writing. After the first novel, though, I made more money, faster than I ever imagined, so those years of "struggle" were behind me, though, of course, writing doesn't present one with a pension, benefits (I had two kids with braces), disability, or vacation time. Thank goodness for my day job.
So let's put it this way: I've never really written for the money, though the money has been wonderful. I was never a freelancer, angling to get my pieces into magazines or newspapers. Nonfiction wasn't my route, and I just kept on with the novel writing plan.
Then the world changed.
When my last book contract ended and the publishing house opted out of their option with me, I realized that in the time since I last had to sell myself, I needed a platform. I needed a blog readership and a facebook and twitter readership and friends. I needed to be out there in the world, allowing strangers into my life story so they would read my imagined ones. When I began blogging on Redroom, that was half my aim: here I am, a writer you might want to read. The other half was this idea that I could write blogs that would turn into essays that I would turn into a book someday.
I used my blog time as a warm up, a loosening of the mental kinks, a way to get it out there. The upside of this was a great connection with many people I'd never known before, connections that manifested in the real world. I did manage to get a number of essays published, too, but not for money. Again, I was back in the world of gaining readership.
I blogged every day for a couple of years, and I enjoyed it all. But in recent months, I realized that I was expending energy that I needed to turn back to my other projects and work, blogging only about once a week, if that. I was spending a great deal of time on someone else's "work" and not my own. While I do not mind pitching in and adding to something wonderful, I needed to pitch in and add something wonderful to my own work, the novel that I have been gnashing my teeth over for going on two years. While I love the readership and am not discomfited by working for free, if there was a way to improve my own life situation and the quality of my novel, I needed to do that. I needed to find a balance--serving myself and enjoying the camaraderie of the online community.
I think I've managed that.
The novel is now again with my agent. I've managed to place a few short stories that I've written in recent months. I've published a few poems, too. While I'm not getting paid for the last two, they are part of my "true" work, the work that I've loved since I started writing. The blogging helped me loosen up, move back into writing I've long loved. I need to give time to blogging, but not so much.
And while I'd love to get paid for poems, short stories, essays, and blogs, I learned long ago that it's not usual. It's the bigger pieces that have provided me with income, and if I manage to put together the chapters or stories or poems for that to happen, that's great.
Otherwise, I'll be here, writing every day because that's what I've always done. That's what I do.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org