What Kind of Writer Are You? (And Why It's Important)
The type of writer you are determines your writing life
Writers are writing in all corners of the world, from all ages and backgrounds, and they tend to fall into three categories:
Knowing which category you fit into can help you understand how to structure your life and what to do with your work when you complete a piece.
Let's look at each of the three individually.
A personal writer writes for themselves or family and friends. You don't care about making money and growing an audience.
This type of writer includes individuals writing autobiographies to pass down to their family and someone who loves to explore the written word but doesn't care if the work gets out to the broader public.
Writers who have a blog but aren't motivated to promote it also fall into this category.
A part-time writer holds down either a full- or part-time job to pay bills as they pursue their craft. You can work toward writing full time or be content to write a little here and there, but you don't plan to live off your royalties.
This is a good option for risk-conservative individuals or those who love to write but aren't concerned about making a career out of writing and publishing.
This is an excellent way to test the waters of a writing life without taking the riskier route and jumping in full time from the start.
A full-time writer is pursuing writing full time (obviously). You're making, or plan to make, enough income from your work so you can focus on your craft without the distractions of other work.
While starting out, you need enough money to pay bills, produce the piece, and market the work when you're done. One or two years of funding in the bank is ideal because an average startup takes two to four years before seeing a profit. And, yes, you're a startup business! And you need to give yourself a realistic amount of time to establish yourself.
Why Is This Important?
Knowing who you are as a writer and what you hope to get from your work is helpful. This shapes what you do after you've completed an article or book and also informs how you'll go about carving out time to write. It'll set the tone for your writing life.
For example, suppose you're only writing for yourself and your loved ones. In that case, you don't have to worry about publishing, marketing, and royalties. You don't even need to hire an editor if you don't want to. You can choose Amazon KDP, Lulu, or a similar print-on-demand company to publish your book - or your own blog or Substack for articles. Easy.
Part-time writers need to juggle life, work, and writing. A set schedule is usually best - I found writing early in the morning before work the best when I was writing my first book. The upside is that you don't have to stress over paying bills and keeping a roof over your head.
This type of writing needs more scheduling - and patience. You'll inevitably take longer to finish a project and will have less time to submit and market it once you're done. And that's okay. Once you complete a piece, you start writing the next as best you can while selling the current work. Little bits of work over more extended periods can produce the same results as a full-time writer, with less stress.
Full-time writing is the riskiest but can produce results faster (i.e., royalties and recognition). I'm a relatively new full-time writer, and, when starting out at least, it's not for the faint of heart.
I decided that writing was more important than buying a house, so I took money I'd saved for a downpayment and invested in myself. I'm both an entrepreneur and a student. I'm back in a college of my own making, for a writing degree I don't have to pay for. There's enough information publicly available that it's easy to find books, videos, and courses to gain the skills and knowledge necessary.
I say that as someone with a Master's in Creative Writing. You don't need a degree to become a writer, though you need stamina and discipline to work independently. And though you’ll have a different schedule than a part-time writer, you need to make sure you’re working on your skills every day.
You must take time to study the craft - it doesn't need to be in a formal classroom at a university, but you must take courses and read books on the art and techniques of writing. And you must read other people's work.
I'm fortunate to have a solid discipline. My general schedule:
Meditate first thing in the morning
Write or edit book-in-progress directly after
Breakfast, tea, glance at emails
Market and promote latest published work and/or write articles like this piece
Lunch / exercise
Read/study writing techniques and/or continue marketing current work
Have a life
I still have to calm myself down on occasion when I get waves of panic over my current trickle of income. I remind myself that this is my choice, it's what I want to do, and I would forever regret not taking this chance. I'm living my dream, and I'm making it a reality. What better joy is there?
Loneliness is the biggest challenge with full-time writing, especially when you're starting out. I write daily with a group on zoom and weekly in a coffee shop with another writer. I discovered that creating with a group goes a long way in helping me feel connected to a broader community.
Which One Are You?
These distinctions are important because each category has a different approach to publishing, marketing, and selling your work. Each is suited for a particular mindset with its own challenges and stresses.
So as you work on your novel, article, play, or poem, think about the type of writer you are. And be okay with your decision. If you try full time and it doesn't work for any reason, get a job. You can still write. You can write no matter where you are or what's going on in your life. So get to it!
This is the first in a year-long (perhaps longer!) deep dive into the nitty gritty of indie publishing and marketing. I hope you'll stay with me - and I hope I can help you avoid mistakes I've made along the way.
And, finally, I’m currently writing a new book, marketing one released last fall, writing this series on indie writing, and trying to have more of a social life. I’ve decided I’m going to publish articles here the first three Tuesdays of the month to give myself some extra time for the other work. Oh, and there might be a podcast in the making…. See you next week!
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