Taking Risk (Starting a Writing Career) During Disaster
First off, don't for a second think that I'm being dismissive of the pain, loss, and anxiety most of us around the world are experiencing during this time of Covid-19 pandemic. That being said, when evolution is forced on us, we must either evolve for the better or die. Said in a less crude manner, this global economic disruption could be the impetus you have needed to finally shed the illusion of stability you've allowed yourself to believe in and set out to live the life you've dreamed of but didn't have the cojones to embrace while you still had the option of suckling from the curdled milk of society's shriveled teat. Okay, so I guess I can't say it without being crude. (Actually, this second effort ended up much more offensive than the first, so I better stop there.)
Twelve years ago, during the GFC (Global Financial Crisis) which we are about to surpass, I was in the process of transitioning from the only job I had held since university graduation in order to launch out on my own as a full-time novelist. My wife and I decided it was time for a complete and total clean break. So she quit her professional career, we sold our home, we sold most of our stuff, we bought a slightly larger car with cash, we adopted a child from Vietnam, we got pregnant, and we spent a year traveling and living with family (and having a baby).
After the housing market had completely cratered, we moved to a small, shuttered, urban corridor in the second largest city in...Idaho. We bought a small house that had been empty for 535 days for the cost of the lot, and we made it home. Since then I've founded a business and written over 1,000,000 words of fiction and probably half as many in nonfiction.
The process has been anything and everything but easy. As a result, I've been hardened to personal crisis and instability. What we are entering on a global scale, I've been enduring to a limited extent on a personal level for a decade. Again, I don't say this to belittle anything about what we are experiencing as a human race. This is a pivotal moment that I pray we will handle with supreme grace and fortitude.
Society is a Poorly Written Script with Gaping Plot Holes
I say all of this to drive home one point. Society is a thin veneer that only hides reality for as long as we desire it to do so. Whatever your philosophy, whether you are religious or not, crisis of the Covid-19 sort of magnitude provides us all with the opportunity to question the script we've been handed. Who and what have you been working for? Are the goals you've set for you and your family meaningful enough that if you achieved them you would be content? or would you be left empty inside?
We are storytellers for goodness sake! There is no excuse for living a life so boring that you would never consider writing it. By rewriting the script we are handed, we can shift expectations of those around us. Before we know it, our communities begin to strengthen as a whole.
What is really being taken away from you during this crisis? For some of us it is our health or even or loved ones. For some of us, it's indentured servitude to financial machinery. Blah, blah, blah. Now I've done and gotten preachy. So enough of that. Once you've processed the Covid-19 crisis enough to move forward, the critical question is "What next?"
What Opportunity Must You Not Let Slip During this Crisis?
If you're reading this blog, you are somehow connected to the publishing industry. Publishing has been in a state of turmoil and instability for a decade already. Covid-19 will certainly bring with it a whole new barrage of difficulties. Some independent bookstores were just starting to take a strong root in our communities. What will happen to them? Will Kindle Unlimited seize an even greater strangle hold? Will platforms emerge to help writers finally make the transition to going more directly to their audience?
Each of us must focus on the small tasks in front of us that we each, individually and in small collectives, can control. Forge your new normal. If your day job spits you out, is this perhaps the right time to double down on your writing career?
For me personally, this crisis is galvanizing me toward the goals I set during the last crisis. It has taken me more years and more grief than I had hoped. But I'm reminded once again of the fragility of the society we participate in. Large institutions and complex corporations have their purposes but so do independent artists. When independent artists are coopted by big data in order to drive ad-spend and contribute to the death of privacy and informational equity we have a problem. The solution must be for independent artists to establish a much more direct access to their audience--one that isn't leveraged and frustrated with high-friction advertising.
Over the Next Weeks and Months
I will continue the work I've begun. But I'll be even more laser focused on helping the small community of pirate authors use the tools currently available to create financial and creative and emotional stability in our lives. This new stability will be one we can control. One we can spread to others. One that can be replicated and scaled.
All of this has simply been to say, if you don't like the script you've been living, this could be the time to rewrite that script. You are not alone. More than ever, we are all in this together. If you feel alone, reach out to me via this post, this website, or facebook. I'll help you find the community that is right for you and will help you succeed.