There’s a scrap of paper taped over my computer with five words on it in blue ink: I Want It This Bad. This is the reminder that took me and my writing from amateur to professional.
Five years ago I was a hobby writer. I liked to write and did so for my own amusement. I wrote fan fiction. Text-based role-plays. Half-finished stories and concept outlines. Occasionally I’d dash off a newspaper article or submission to a contest, but for the most part, I wrote what I felt like, when I felt like it.
Other times I felt like playing Halo marathons. Not a lot got written those weeks.
I got a lot of positive feedback on this hobby writing. Comments like “you should be a real writer.” Which led me to ask…why wasn’t I?
I wasn’t actively looking for markets. I wasn’t actively creating original works that I could sell. I wasn’t doing much to learn about publishing as an industry, or network with those already in it. In short, I was a writer, but I wasn’t a professional.
I know people who love to write, and have written incredibly entertaining stories, who have no interest in being professional writers. One of them has accepted that his heart lies in his chosen career, and writing will always come second. Some of them write because they love a franchise, and they want to continue the stories of those characters. One of them said, “Writing is fun for me. I don’t want it to feel like a job.”
These are all valid reasons. None of them were my reasons. I would have been happy to pitch my day job to write, and, in fact, I wanted to. So why wasn’t I doing anything that would get me to that point? I had taken Step One – write – and I had stopped there.
That moment was my realization. If I ever wanted the opportunity for writing to be my real job, I had to make writing a real job – at the very least, a part time job – right away.
What did I want to do with my day off – play Halo 2 for the 24th time, or lay down some words on a novel? What did I want to do with my vacation – lie on a beach, or attend a writer’s conference? What was a better way for me to spend that spare hour – gawking at Facebook, or looking for short story markets?
I’ll be honest. There were times I would rather have picked Option A. And that’s when those words play through my mind: How bad do you want it?
I want it this bad.
Bad enough to put down the video game controller, lay down the money for the conference registration, knuckle down and do the research. Bad enough to weigh whether I’d gotten my day’s writing done before I accepted the invitation, turned on the TV or spent an afternoon reading comic books. Bad enough to turn (full disclosure: 99%) of my plot ideas into sellable fiction rather than fan fiction.
In the interests of work-life balance, I do still play video games when I’m too sick to write a coherent sentence. I do take days off to lay on the beach with my family. I do noodle around the internet from time to time. However devoted I am to my writing, I swore I would not let that devotion leave me divorced, socially isolated, and sick from neglecting my loved ones or my health. And yes, I made time for that fanfic 1% so I could get it out of my head and have a decent night’s sleep already.
Still, that’s left me with a significant amount of time to write professional-quality, marketable stuff. I’ve had three paid publications so far, and I’m gunning for more to come.
Sometimes I do miss those Halo marathons. When I do, though, I think about my story sales and ask myself, “How bad do I want it?”And then I park my butt in front of the word processor, because I Want It This Bad.