For me, the end of the year is always a special time, not just because I get to eat way too many Christmas cookies and spend time with family and friends. It’s also a time for reflection and resolutions—taking stock of what is going right in my life and what I might want to change.
December is also my anniversary month. It’s been three years now since I left my day job as a psychologist to pursue my dream: writing lesbian fiction full-time.
I’ve been a writer from the day I wrote my first story at the age of ten. But I never really believed that it would be possible for me to make a living as a writer. Let’s face it, writing is not a secure job. While a handful of writers such as J.K. Rowling strike it rich, most can’t support themselves on their writing.
So I understand why most parents wouldn’t encourage their kids to make writing their career and join the ranks of starving artists. My parents certainly didn’t encourage me. I grew up in a family of non-readers. My parents haven’t even touched a book in decades (weird, I know, but I love them anyway), and I can’t remember seeing any of my grandparents with a book either. I still find it pretty amusing that they somehow managed to produce offspring who are all avid readers and—in the case of my younger sister, my oldest niece, and me—writers.
For years, I wrote in my spare time—on the train to work, on weekends, and after work until late in the night. Even after I had published several novels and was starting to earn more money from my writing, I hesitated to take the leap and give up my day job to write full-time. It was the scariest decision of my life—and the best one. I have never regretted taking that step, not for a moment.
Of course there have been difficult days, but I finally feel that I’m doing what I was meant to be doing with my life, and I’m very aware that’s a privilege not many people have.
So as the year draws to a close, take a look at your life. Are there any dreams that you never dared pursue? Any goals you have been postponing from one year to the next because other things got in the way? You might find, as I did, that they aren’t so impossible to achieve after all.
By the way, if you are dreaming about becoming a full-time writer too, here are my top-three tips:
1. Becoming a full-time writer is not actually one big leap. It’s a series of small steps. Writing careers are built over years, not overnight. Since few writers can live off just one book, build a backlist of several well-written books first.
2. Build a good writing routine now, while you still have a day job. Instead of writing just when you feel like it, take your writing seriously and treat it like a job. That will help you publish new books regularly later on.
3. Book royalties can be pretty unpredictable, so save up at least six to twelve months of living expenses before taking the plunge.
There’s also nothing wrong with writing as a side job or as a hobby, if that’s what you prefer to do.
Whatever your dream is, go for it, even if it seems scary or takes a while to accomplish!
Happy holidays, everyone!
Jae used to work as a psychologist but gave up her day job in December 2013 to become a full-time writer and a part-time editor. For the past eight years she has been writing mostly in English. Jae just published Heart Trouble with Ylva.