Recently, I decided to start exploring self-publishing as a side hustle. Although I have some experience with self-publishing, I've never treated it as a viable way to promulgate my writing or generate an income from it. This week, however, I enacted a number of changes I've been sitting on for a while in the hopes of making self-publishing an ancillary to my writing and editorial life.
I will use this blog to trace my learning and writing process, particularly in relation to this new endeavor of self-publishing. I am not yet sure how often I will post or if I will even end up promoting these posts--right now they are for me, and perhaps a select few of my closest friends who have a direct interest in this subject. In embarking on this path, I'm also giving myself the freedom to fail or decide it's not for me. But I won't know unless I try.
What led to this decision?
For a long time, I've keenly felt a tension between editing (my "day job") and writing. As much as I enjoy editing, I love writing and am often encouraged to do more with it. I frequently daydream about being a full-time writer--and everything that entails, because I love marketing and promotion too. I have assumed that this is too much of a long-shot for me, and thus writing gets pushed to the sidelines of my life--something I do "for fun," when I happen to have time or a book deal.
Meanwhile, although my editing business is going reasonably well, I often have fewer clients at any given time than I would like. I'm spending a lot of time in distraction mode, waiting for more work. This might be a common problem among freelances, and sometimes I do have more work than I can handle, but ordinarily I could stand to have a few more hours of work per day.
For several months, I've been wondering what is to be done about this. Am I content where I'm at? Do I want to make a change? Is a change even possible? I've gradually (but unsystematically) built up the time I spend writing and mapping out book ideas in the hopes that it will somehow add up to something.
Last week was a catalyzing moment. Several podcast episodes I listened helped me immediately see several actionable steps for moving forward. A prime example was this episode of Hurry Slowly, which focused on managing multiple projects in terms of percentages--what percentage of your work time do you want to be devoted to different modes of work? I realized that if I were to minimize distractions and idle time, I spend roughly four hours per day clients' work--that's half a job. (As I said, occasionally this is more like 10 or 12 hours, feast or famine, but that seldom.) If I wanted to, I basically have half a working day to devote to writing--I would not be doing any damage to my (suboptimal but barely livable) income.
Recognizing this freed my mind to consider how best to use those 3-4 writing hours and really begin to see myself as an active author--not just someone who happened to publish a book a few months ago. I can give myself permission to make writing a bigger and more intentional part of my working life.
What I did this week
Luckily, since I'd been toying with the whole question of writing and working for months, I have a stockpile of book ideas, research, and even outlines for possible book projects. I picked the idea that most resonates with me right now, and which has marketability, and decided to make that my focus for the next month.
I decided that for the foreseeable future, I will write one very rough draft chapter (1-2K words) of this book per day, Monday through Thursday (with Friday as an optional writing day, or a day to catch up on other "admin" writing like blog posts and podcast episodes). By the end of the second week in April, my aim is to have a rough draft of roughly fifteen chapters, which equals a complete (nonfiction) book draft of twenty to thirty thousand words.
Thus, my weekly goal is to write four chapters and at least 4000 words of my ebook. When I clocked out today, my word was 4900 words, spread over four chapters.
I determined my writing time will be from 9-12 each morning, which I faithfully kept to this week.
In doing so, I realized this time slot provides two incentives for me to do the writing. First, it leverages my need for a morning coffee (implementing a strategy Gretchen Rubin calls pairing--I don't drink a coffee until I get to Starbucks and have my draft open). Second, because I have editorial work in the afternoon for clients, I know I can't laze around--I need to just get the writing done so I can make it home for lunch and start editing.
Finally, I left my apartment and worked at the Starbucks near my house to do the writing. Although I am sensitive to noise (even with white noise on noise-cancelling headphones), getting out of the house made me feel like I was really starting something new and erecting some "hard edges" in my work day. Also, since Starbucks is NOT my favorite working environment, it gave me further incentive to just get the writing done so I could go home and get some peace and quiet. As my word count indicates, the combination worked.
Devoting half my day to writing likewise forced me to be more focused on my clients' work. Because I did have superfluous time to space out or distract myself during the day, I took fewer breaks and thus got to enjoy a state of flow more often--both while writing and doing editing work.
What Else I've Been Learning This Week