Health and Wellness Update.
November 22, 2016
We’re fine, by the way. Thank goodness for the ACA.
When babies are born, a lot of moms will voice a preference over whether or not the child is a boy or a girl but when it comes down to it, all that really matters is that it’s healthy.
I was lucky that all my girls were born healthy (Yes, girls were my preference) and we’ve continued as a physically healthy family for over 23 years now.
But that scare we’re still recovering from- with my health on the line followed by my second daughter’s sepsis and pneumonia- is still traumatic for me. Today is her 20th birthday and I never thought I’d still be reeling from her near-death experience. There’s an anxious side of me that’s always knocking on wood, we’ve been so very fortunate that we haven’t been touched by much tragedy and that monster whispered in my ear the entire time she was sick “You thought you were lucky, didn’t you?” I don’t know how anyone manages to survive after losing a child and I know I must be a special kind of nuts to view our luck thus far as a bad omen. No life escapes tragedy, does it?
It solidified my desire to not return to the crazy 55+ hours a week workforce and to dedicate the bulk of my energy and mind to writing. I’ve supported our family with words once before and I can do it again. Working outside of the home, missing my daughters and dedicating all of my professional time and energy to someone else’s business wouldn’t have helped in a tragedy. My kids need me and I need them.
(Which is all fine and well but I’m setting a timer and taking bets on how long it will take to get cabin fever and crave adult conversation. Tick… tock….)
This time I’m taking a longer-term approach. This time instead of always cashing out immediately for 3-5 cents per word, I’m investing my words in long-term royalties, publishing workbooks for writers, journals and fictional novels on Amazon.
I started the fiction in November of 2014 but I haven’t paid much attention to it because I was busy loving my job, even while missing my kids. I didn’t even realize they were successful until June or July of 2015 when I peeked at my income and freaked out. It tanked right about the time I figured it out, mainly because Kindle changed the way they paid authors.
I probably should have taken it as a sign that writing fiction should be my “new thing” but instead, I kept plugging away at the job with the background buzz of potential author-income whispering in my ear for the next 18 months. Instead, I took the income change as a sign that writing was unstable and while I was glad for the bonus cash, I was too scared to commit to writing full time again.
Losing health and wellness forced me to spend long hours day after day in bed, barely able to stay awake. I don’t know what was worse, being unable to stay awake or, once I was able to stay awake, not having the energy to walk around the house or take care of anything.
For the first month, when I couldn’t stay awake, all I had the energy for was reading so I spent about a month in bed reading fiction and reading about the craft of writing and selling fiction, when I could keep my eyes open. That was new to me. I’ve never been “into” fiction. But now, I had to be. It was research.
When my vision blurred and I couldn’t stare at a screen or a page, I listened to podcasts on plot development, eBook marketing, branding a pen name, and the complicated nature of conceiving a series and building a world.
Once I started recovering and was able to stay awake, I spent about a month writing. Nonstop. I published 4 books during that month. After that, when my health and wellness returned, I wrote some more (though, now that I had the energy to maintain the house and be a parent, I was far less productive as a writer).
When my daughter was in the hospital, I wrote. When the dinner was simmering for 20 minutes, I wrote. Every morning when I wake up, the first thing I do is write. Right now my goal is 3,000 fiction words a day but there have been days when I’ve written as many as 10,000.
But not in a vacuum. I am also studying authors who are successful. I made a spreadsheet of other author’s income, two actually. One is based on their voluntary responses to an earnings thread in a discussion forum I’m in. I make special note of the ones who are earning more than I need to live on and I’m following their posts for words of wisdom. Reaching the “what I need to live on” goal is first. I can live on freelance income, but if my long term goal is 100% royalty-based income, I need to keep track of that and slowly but surely cut away the freelance work until I’m living only on royalties. But I also have this pressing housing issue that I’m 15 months away from crashing into and so I need to reach higher.
I have another spreadsheet based on the earnings of Amazon authors I come across on Kindle Spy. On this spreadsheet, I track only authors making over 10k a month. Most of them are people I’ve never heard of. And 10k is only goal #2, even that won’t eliminate my pending housing crisis, but it will give me more options when the time comes.
Tracking their earnings is easy, but decoding how they’ve done was a bit of a mystery. Here’s how I’m studying them so far. I’ve set up a series of folders in my inbox, one for each >10k author. I’ve set up google news alerts to see who is promoting their work and when they publish. I’ve subscribed to their newsletters and Facebook pages, followed them on Twitter and other social networks. I use IFTT to feed all of the content related to that author into its respective folder. A numeric sidebar badge alerts me to new content in that folder and I use ANOTHER spreadsheet to document their activities. (How often do they publish, give interviews, tweet, send a newsletter…?)
I also track things I learn about their workflow, comments like “I never start writing until I have every plot point outlined” and “If I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, I write it down before I go back to sleep” are filed away to guide me in my quest to internalise their path to success.
What I’ve learned so far is that the authors who are prolific are also profitable. I’ve learned that every book increases an author’s success exponentially, since so many readers will follow an author, going back to read their older work when they’ve discovered they like their latest publication. I’ve learned that many of these most successful authors aren’t spending their day on message boards engaging in mindless conversations, they’re working their asses off and enjoying the fruits of their labor. They’re also like me in that they’re often very analytical, tracking the success of every ad campaign, cover redesign and marketing tactic and eager to share the results of what they’ve learned with others.
Ditching the commute, I’ve added a little over an hour to each of my “work” days. I’ve re-established content and updated income streams through some of my older websites. I’ve been able to reconnect with some of my former clients and picked up freelance tasks here and there. Today, probably 1/4 of my time is spent on earning-for-today while the bulk of my writing time is spent creating fiction for long-term income.
I’m still working 7 days a week (and still laughing at the idea that any successful entrepreneur works a 5 day week) but my work is purposeful. And my purpose is my kids. They deserve a mom who sees them more than just a few minutes before work and a few minutes afterward. They deserve a mom who has time for board games, documentaries, trips to the museum and week-long hospital stays (knock on wood).
In February of 2018, we will be faced with a potentially-devastating housing challenge. The work I’d been doing for the past two years wouldn’t have relieved that challenge at all. I was making just enough to live on, with nothing left over for the future. I’ve supported my family with writing before and I’m still earning royalties from work I’ve done back in 2005.
Clearly, for long-term income, royalties are better than an hourly wage. I absolutely don’t want to move out of my house. With a grand daughter on the way next Spring, I look around at these walls knowing it’s a perfect “Nana’s house” for little Audrey.
But I need to be prepared.
Uncertainty is stressful, but the recent health-and-wellness shakeup we had in our family has really helped me align my principles. Working from home is the perfect world for me. No matter what else is going on in life, I have been and always will be a super obsessively analytical researcher and writer.
I’m no longer fighting reality.
I’m using my writing to generate royalty-based income. I’m using my marketing education to sell more books and I’m using my analytical mind to hyper focus on productivity and profitability. In a way, I think I was made for this.
You know a decision is right when you look back at life and realize that “every moment was leading up to this.”