Being in the business of writing means I’m in the business of putting ideas into words—preferably saleable words! I love being a wordsmith, thoughtfully connecting with people and taking my work to market in creative ways. I’ve done it for 25 years in one way or another and still find great joy in sitting down to flesh out a new idea. Taking stock of the business side of writing, however, means I need to take a hard look at the revenue vs. the expenses. And the smaller I can make that little word: versus, the better. Because it really is my biggest battle: balancing the joy of creativity with the rigors of accounting.
I love to write. I love to connect with my reader. I love to go to market. But this is tax time and the proverbial rubber is meeting the not-so-proverbial road in a big way. How much have I made this year, in terms of actual dollars and cents (rounding up or down)? What is my cash flow?
My cash flow? I’m a writer. I have ideas. The creative process is alive and well. I have two new books this year thanks to self-publishing tools such as Apple’s iBook Author and my library’s user-friendly espresso publishing service. I plan to riff off these two little gems—a how-to writing book (Called to Write: your 3-part guide to the journey available through iBooks) and a collection of short poems (Sky Under Water). They are my springboards to hosting a keynote next month at Inscribe’s WordShop in Edmonton and hopefully other engagements taking shape, including collaborative work—not to mention online sales and the potential of my personal and LinkedIn network. Opportunities abound!
In many ways God is opening new doors. I have more time to write, thanks to my kids transitioning from homeschool to full-time school and setting up a Home Study office. Moving from Victoria back to Edmonton has meant reconnecting with Inscribe and clients from my past. Learning how to self-publish has meant the completion of projects I’ve been slaving over. I’ve even met with a bookkeeper to take full advantage of working from home (“double-entry bookkeeping” anyone?). I’ve even colour-coded my files and bought a new desk. I am set!
But back to cash flow. My work used to be 80% freelance and 20% client-based. It kind of ran itself. Expenses were low (if you don’t count out-of-province conferences). Revenues were okay. I did the math at tax time and felt pretty good. In other words, I was rather lazy and lacking in otherwise productive remorse/motivation to do more or dream big. In fact, I’ve usually stuck to reliable consumer markets and rarely wrote about anything close to my heart. But now…
Now I have all the time in the world to write and run my home-based business the way I want. Want, want, want. What do I want?? To answer that question, I find myself taking stock of a rather lop-sided approach to the whole. Creativity is in full supply. I’ve been journaling since about age 12. This year I turn 48. At an average of 6 journals a year for 36 years that’s 216 journals tucked away in boxes, baskets and blue bins. That’s a lot of journals. Ideas are not the problem! It’s the accounting side of the equation that needs, shall we say—a boost?! Freelance and client writing has been pretty much self-sustaining. But building off more prayerful, heart-felt work in more personally meaningful ways is like taking a whole new approach to something I’ve done all my life.
Instead of seeking editors and clients who like my work, I am now seeking people to connect and collaborate with in person. I’ll still be seeking markets and publication, but for work that is much closer to my heart. It will be important that I align with the publications that feature my work. This will be tricky, but I want my writing vocation to dovetail with my inner life. Taking a broader perspective and seeing how my work fits with the mandate of the publication or group I’m working with will be important.
For me, this means doing business better. If I want to write material that is attentive to the moment and responsive to God’s leading, then I also need to pay 10X more attention to details such as revenue sources and expense line items. I need to treat my writing less as a creative, fun-loving adventure and more like a value-based, timely business venture. I need to mesh my passion with my paycheque more closely than ever.
While standing on the threshold of a new opportunity is exciting, 25 years in the biz has taught me that paycheques fuel passion, they don’t curtail it. And it’s my prayer to go the distance as a Christian writer, so… here’s to counting the cost!