The first career path to which I gave serious consideration was authoring fiction. The driving motivation behind this idea — telling stories — drives a disproportionate number of my hobbies: independent film-making, movie/TV-watching and game-playing (on the receiving end of told stories, in this case), role-playing games. Every other career I entertained the notion of pursuing held storytelling as a key component: acting, directing, visual effects for film, and now game development. Within the last year, I decided that having a “day job” by no means precluded professional writing. Author John Scalzi, internet-famous for his Whatever blog, cemented this decision by restating my own conclusion in as many words. This led to my involvement in NaNoWriMo 2008, which I completed within the designated timeframe. Though the resultant short novel is not something I feel is worth publishing (contrary to prior statements I’ve made about it), the simple fact that I wrote it armed me with the confidence that I can write a novel.
Pursuant to my goal to be a professional writer, I decided yesterday that I would take another page from Scalzi’s playbook and try to write a blog entry every day from now on. My morning routine includes perusing a number of websites (a task made much simpler thanks to Google Reader and the wonder of RSS), which often have several interesting stories worth pointing out. My hope is that readership here will grow beyond the small circle of friends that now read it and that it can become a community unto itself.
What do I mean by professional writer? I don’t mean quitting my day job. Scalzi (yeah, you’re going to see him name-dropped quite often) makes the observation that unless you can guarantee annual income from writing that’s 30% above what you make at your current day job, your financial situation will be worse if you quit your job to focus on writing. The only reason to quit your job for writing is that if holding the job impedes the income you could otherwise make from writing.
Professional writer, in this sense, is synonymous with Stephen King’s definition of a talented writer: if you wrote something and someone paid you for it, you’re talented. It doesn’t matter if the writing was technical, analytical, editorial, or fictional — if you wrote something and got paid, you fit the definition. Take it as a forgone conclusion that my ideal world would have me waking up at noon to eat breakfast and surf the internet for an hour, writing fiction for the next five, eating dinner with Cody, and then spending the evening on entertainment, all while making much more than I make now. It’s not an unrealistic fantasy, but it’s not one that will come without time and effort.
Sometimes, to get what you want, you have to elect to do things you otherwise might not choose to do. To that end, I stopped procrastinating last night and bought myself a copy of Writer’s Market 2009. This book is the ultimate go-to resource for writers, listing every publishing outlet for every topic available. I plan to find a small outlet that publishes articles I might be able to write about with some intelligence, and submitting. Without some incredible luck, it won’t be fiction. I would be more than happy, however, to be paid for writing movie reviews, technical reviews, game reviews, or any other number of topics on which I tend to pontificate anyway.
As with every other industry, you first need to get your foot in the door. Prove that you’re publishable in a small way before you can hope to hit big.