So far over this series of posts about Paying the Price with your fiction writing, I’ve talked about time, about family, about money, and some other general attitude problems that writers must face to become regular selling fiction writers. If you haven’t read those posts, scan down and read them. This one sort of builds from those.
So exactly what do I mean by paying the price with taxes? Well, actually, I meant that as a joke, actually, since in the early years of writing, the biggest check you get every year from your writing is your tax refund. But I got your attention, didn’t I? Actually, taxes are the nice thing about the early years of fiction writing. They get tough, later, but early on they are a bonus.
I am not a tax lawyer and am not giving advice here. But I can say a few basic pieces of common sense. Keep a record of every expense you have with your writing. That includes travel to workshops or conventions, costs of computers, costs of internet, costs of seeing movies, costs of books and magazine subscriptions and so on. Keep good records.
Then file a Schedule C with your tax return.
You must also keep good records as to how you are trying to make money with your writing, meaning keeping track of rejections and keeping any submission log you have current. Keep the rejections. Do not throw them away. If you are making a consistent effort to be published and sell your writing, you need to have those records to show the IRS if they ask.
In other words, treat your writing as you would treat any other home business. Keep track of everything, including the miles to and from the post office. Then, when you have all these deductions on your Schedule C and you lose money on your writing, (which you will lose some nice chunks of money in the early years) it comes off your taxes and you get a refund from the money you paid in on your day job check. Nifty, huh? But it does take a little time and a tiny bit of organization. Start it now, because when you become a full time writer with a corporation, trust me the paperwork doesn’t get easier.
And one more side point on this organization topic. Start filing everything now. Don’t let it stack up in boxes because then the job of filing and putting everything in order gets crazy. Start a file for every story or novel and keep the rejections and contracts with that file as they come in. You will thank me later.
So, to something that writers tend to actually pay a price on in their lives early on: Hobbies. When you start looking for that extra bit of time (see previous posts), one area to look at is other hobbies or sports. I used to be a professional golfer, and I still love the game, but taking five hours out of a day to play golf has become tough, to be honest. I need the writing time more. Some friends who started with me, but who didn’t make it early on stayed with their music hobby or kept their regular visits to a bar, or kept signing up for sports leagues. I cut all that stuff and gave the time to my writing.
Another price we all pay is friends. A relationship with a friend that depends on so many hours per week often gets cut back to find more writing time. Or a friend who doesn’t like the fact that you are starting to sell will start making comments that are negative. They won’t mean it and won’t realize they are doing it, but the only choice you have is to ease away. Confronting them never works, but go ahead and do it anyway. It cuts things even quicker.
To be blunt, the friends you have as a beginning writer, for the most part, won’t be the friends you have as a professional writer. Now, understand that I have a couple of good non-writer friends from junior high who have stuck with me through everything and been supportive. Shaking their heads at times, but supportive. Those are the friends you make sure to keep. But anyone who tries to slow you down or stop you or tells you that you are working too hard, let them go. It’s not a fun price to pay, but one that just happens I’m afraid. To make this less painful, see my post on getting out to writer’s conferences and classes to make new friends, new networks inside your writing.
Paying the Price with exercise. You must exercise, somehow, some way. You must find a little time to do the exercise. You can’t let that go. Writing is sitting alone in a room and making stuff up. You do that for too many hours and too many weeks at a time without exercise, you will hurt yourself. So as you set up the time to write, give a small percentage of the new time to exercise. Get the heart pumping at least five times per week, keep the pounds down. In writing you are young at 50, but if you let the health go bad, it’s going to stop your best years of writing. Start early, like with filing.
Exercise. This, for me the last ten years is a pot calling the kettle black. But as I near 60, I’ve set a goal to lose the last 40 pounds (already down 45 from my highest) and run a marathon sometime during my 60th year. The training will take time away from my writing, sure, but I will have more energy, and be a lot healthier and live years longer, so I sort of figure I’m paying the time away from writing now into a time bank for writing later. I suppose on Facebook, I should do a running track of this year-long project to get ready for a marathon. I might do that.
During this series of posts, I got a couple people asking me why not talk about the good things of being a full time fiction writer? I more than likely will at some point. For example, last year about May I posted a picture from this internet computer of my back yard here of my office building and the ocean view beyond. Right now, behind me, the sun is shinning on the ocean and the rhodies are starting to bloom. One really cool thing about being a full time writer is that you can live anywhere. Kris and I picked the place we always went to vacation to live full time, and after 15 years or so now, we have never regretted getting up every morning and looking out over the Pacific Ocean.
So, when you pay the price for your writing on a minute-by-minute basis early on, when you scrape the money together you don’t have to make a trip to learn, when you give up that friend time this week in the bar to do five more pages, just keep in mind that there is a wonderful world at the end of the sacrifices. And any full-time writer who tells you otherwise is just nuts.
If you would have told me, as a beginning writer with three jobs, living in Moscow, Idaho, that I would end up with an office building overlooking the Pacific Ocean making my living at fiction writing, I would have laughed and said, “Yeah, don’t I wish.”
But I paid the price and I’m sitting right here. Trust me, it was worth it.