The Fantasy vs. The Reality of Being a Writer (Part One)

WritingThis post has been a long time coming. It’s not my typical blog post, so I have no idea if anyone will even read it…but I feel like this topic needs some serious clarity not just for me, but for all writers and all those who hope to be writers. I can only speak for myself and my experiences, of course, but I believe that surely there must be some universal truths here for all. And if not…well, at least maybe someone somewhere will pick up a nugget or two of wisdom to help them in their own writing journey. So here goes.

I started blogging exactly six years ago today. I was working full-time public relations at the time…a steady, dependable, good-paying job with room for growth and excellent benefits. But it wasn’t lighting me up inside, so I went looking for something that would. I found it in the form of a little unassuming blog through the Nashville Examiner, where I literally got paid pennies for clicks. But the fact that I had tapped into something that brought my creativity to life again was more than enough payment for me.

About a year later, that little blog became TheSingleWoman.net. And I continued to work my full-time job during the day, because I made no money from TheSingleWoman.net (which remains true to this day, the making no money from my website part). I know other bloggers have found success with selling ad space on their blogs and using Google ad words and things like that…but that never felt right for me. At one point I briefly tried adding ads and it generated very little revenue and just felt like it was cluttering my site, so I removed them. And I haven’t actively sought out income in the form of ad space since. For a couple of reasons: 1) I don’t have time 2) I am hesitant to clog up my site, which has been so pure for so many years, with a lot of promotional junk. People who have had success in this arena: Kudos to you and keep doing your thing! It’s just not for me. I say all this to say: (Writing Fantasy #1) I know people who start blogging and immediately think that they’re going to be able to really quickly and easily establish an affiliate link system and incorporate ad-words and the money is just going to start rolling in…but hear me. It doesn’t work that way. It takes a LOT of hard work to get your blog to the point where other affiliations are even interested in working with you. And it takes a LOT of traffic to your blog to generate any real income from this process. I’m not saying this to be discouraging, but to be honest…and to encourage you to focus on beefing up your blog and creating something that ads value to people’s lives before you start trying to ad advertisements to their lives. Generating great content HAS to come before generating revenue. You can’t earn money for clicking links if you have no people visiting your blog to click those links. Blogging is NOT going to become your full-time gig the moment you write your first blog post. If you are dependent upon your blog or your writing from the moment you begin to also pay your way through life…you’re going to be putting too much pressure and too many expectations on the creative process. The reason I was able to write with such abandon and vigor from the start was because The Single Woman was something I created simply to put a smile back on my face…not to put food on the table.

I juggled my full-time job with my full-time writing for three years. And it wasn’t easy. It was all-consuming, actually. But I knew that I had tapped into something special and it was worth it to me to make the sacrifice of time and social engagements and even sometimes sleep. And it paid off. My current publisher, Thomas Nelson (now a division of Harper Collins) stumbled across me on Twitter and reached out in 2011 to see if I would be interested in turning my blog and my message into a book. It was my biggest dream come true!

But hold on…that doesn’t mean what a lot of you THINK it means.

I’ve gotten numerous tweets on numerous occasions…sometimes people being lighthearted and joking about it, and other times being rude and judgmental about it…referring to me “making the big bucks” and “cashing that sweet royalty check” or “living large on that fat advance you must have gotten!” And when that happens I can’t decide whether to laugh or cry or throw my computer out the window. Here’s the truth: Yes, I was able to leave my full-time job, after a YEAR of discussions with Thomas Nelson about a potential book, and live off my book advance. And I’ve been able to live off book advances and royalty checks as a full-time writer for three and a half years now. But (Writing Fantasy #2 coming your way) unless your last name is Grisham or Sparks or Lucado or Osteen…you’re not going to be “living large” off your book advance OR your royalty checks. In fact, you might actually live quite small, like me. I have a very tiny one-bedroom apartment. I don’t take decadent vacations. I don’t splurge on designer purses (unless they’re from TJ Maxx). I was finally able to buy my dream car about a year ago…a used VW Beetle. That’s my one major purchase in more than three years of living life as a full-time writer/blogger/author. I live on a very tight budget. And I’m not complaining about my life. I’m happy. In this day and age, with the millions of books and authors floating around out there in the world…I feel blessed to be able to do what I do and make enough money to live. Which I do. Make enough money to live. And that’s about it. Here’s the reality: Most authors make all the money they’re going to make off of a book through their advance. And most advances nowadays (particularly if you don’t have a platform) are meager, at best. I’ve been fortunate enough to have earned royalties from my books beyond my advances, and that makes me the exception…not the rule. But I was raised by a hardworking police officer and a stay-at-home mom in lower middle income conditions…so I know how to make it work. I know how to work my butt off to support myself. And I know how to appreciate everything I have. Perhaps someday my financial windfall will come…and believe me, I won’t send it away! I’d LOVE to become filthy rich from my writing! But it’s not the reason I write. And it shouldn’t be the reason you write, either…otherwise you’ll grow too bitter and angry at life to have enough creativity left in you to write anything that matters. I write for the passion of writing and helping people, and because I know it’s what God has called me to do. If this isn’t your calling…don’t do it. Especially don’t do it because you think it’s going to be the way your ship comes in.

If you write from a place of passion and purpose, I can tell you that amazing things CAN and WILL happen. My writing has changed my life in every possible way. It has opened doors I never imagined were possible. But it hasn’t made me rich. It might never. And I’m at peace with that, because it’s not why I started doing it in the first place. My biggest piece of advice I can give you on this topic is this: Write for the right reasons. And even if it doesn’t make you wealthy financially…it WILL bring you incredible riches in other areas: spiritually, personally, emotionally. It might change your life, or even your career, like it did mine.

And who knows? Someday it might even pay the bills. 🙂

Writing Fantasies 3, 4, & 5 coming soon!

Fellow writers…sound off! Comment below with any thoughts or questions you have. If you’re a blogger, feel free to share your blog link!

26 Responses to “ The Fantasy vs. The Reality of Being a Writer (Part One) ”

  1. Tracey Walsh Morrissey
    January 23, 2016

    Two of my writer friends have been just begging for me to start a blog. Out of pure laziness-being a single mom, I’ve put it off. This post was so inspiring that I’m going to actually start to create my own blog. I thank you. You started off by stating that you didn’t know if anyone would read this because it wasn’t your “usual stuff”. Well, I read it because I enjoy every one of your posts that I have time to read. “If you build it, they will come.” I believe this applies to you.

    Thank you from a forty year old, divorced, mother of an eleven year old daughter that just happens to be high functioning with Down Syndrome.

    • January 24, 2016

      Tracy, you’ll be in my prayers! I’ve never commented on other women’s posts, but this morning I felt encouraged after reading Mandy’s and wanted to encourage all ladies that replied to her wonderful post. ❤️

  2. Christi
    January 23, 2016

    Thank you, Mandy. I needed to read this today. I’m very protective and sensitive regarding the words I write, because they expose me. Makes me vulnerable. So I’ve been writing safe, guarded material, then feeling shallow and trivial, because that’s exactly what I produced.

    It will take courage on my part post the things I write in the future. I’m praying for strength and confidence in this regard. Thank you for sharing your experience and for your encouragement.

    • January 24, 2016

      That’s been my case! Mandy is a great role model with her authentic voice! 🙂

  3. January 23, 2016

    Thanks for sharing the reality of writing. I just started my blog. I have toyed with idea for a long time, but I have just now given in to the notion. It has already brought me so much joy. I have no desire for my blog to become anything more than that really . There’s just something so sweet about being able to share your heart and help others in return! Thanks for all you do! You’re such a blessing to me and I know to thousands more! I live about 4 hrs away, but I hope to make it up Saturday! Here is a link to my blog… https://roadtoacceptance.wordpress.com
    Hope you enjoy it!

    Kym xoxo

    • January 24, 2016

      I will check it out and possibly share! Go for it girl! Giselle from Miami

    • January 24, 2016

      I just read “acceptance leads to trust”! It truly hit home for me, cause though I believed in Him, I didn’t ” trust” Him! You’ve got a message for some of us ” good-little, self-directed Christian girls”. Thank you for confirming that I’m not alone!! Giselle from Miami

  4. sue
    January 23, 2016

    I started writing many years ago via journaling daily. I’ve since written dozens of poems and received incredibly positive feedback. No MONEY! Writing has taken me to the darkest moments of my life to some of the happiest! My spirit motivates me to write. It’s lonely, physically demanding (developed carpel tunnel) and most of all more therapy than any counseling I’ve encountered! Loved your message about writing. It’s just what I needed to motivate me to continue for all the right reasons. Thank you Mandy once again for your incredible insight!

  5. January 23, 2016

    You hit the nail on the head here. Writing is something you do because you want to add value to people’s lives not because you want to become rich and famous. Thanks for your advice on marketing myself as a writer. Beside my personal blog where I write memoir style anecdotes, I also love writing articles on books, music, movies, and dogs. Thus, the Smart Cookie Philes was born. thesmartcookiephiles.wordpress.com.

    • January 24, 2016

      I will check it out! Blessings for your efforts!! ❤️

  6. January 23, 2016

    Dear Mandy, one of your avid followers who also happens to be my friend suggested I read this and now I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I started my blog approximately 9 months ago and I thought I had to do it the way you described in the beginning of your post i.e. monetize, drive traffic, get Google rankings, etc. Just the thought of all of that puts so much pressure on me that I am developing writer’s block more and more frequently. I get too much into my head and I stop writing from my heart when this happens. I think my blog is pretty awesome; I feel like my material is relatable and hopefully I’m helping others. I never realized until I started writing how therapeutic it would be for me either. Ever since I learned about you, I’ve wanted to enjoy the same successes with my blog that you have. Your candidness on this subject will definitely encourage me to step back and to do some soul searching regarding what my end goal with writing is really all about. Thank you, thank you! Keep changing the world Mandy one single woman at a time. God bless you.

  7. Celina
    January 23, 2016

    Compensation is compensation , whether it’s for your art , or your 9 to 5! You worked hard to put words on paper and committed to actually producing something beautiful and inspirational for so many women like myself. I really think it’s gross that people would question your source of income, it’s really none of their damn business and you don’t have to justify how you earn your living, or your spending habits. Keep pursuing your purpose, youre awesome @what you do!

  8. January 24, 2016

    Mandy, I enjoy reading your blog because you have a gentle spirit and “voice.” I am an artist that makes hardly any money on my artwork, I have to have a full time job to support myself and child. And that’s okay with me. There was a time when I thought it would be great to be a full-time artist and I gave it a try, but I learned that when I start focusing on the “business” aspect of selling my art, it takes away what my artwork was truly meant for and my creativity starts becoming a “chore.” I feel that God gave me the gift of creativity to express myself as a means of healing, of soothing my soul, of showing that there is beauty on the inside of me despite my past hurts or anger or shame. I do display it and have art shows and put my work up for sale, but I don’t put as much effort into it as other artists do. I started my own blog this past New Years Day to tell the stories behind my artwork – like writing an art autobiography. I’ve wanted to write the stories for a few years now and glad I now have a “vehicle” to do it with a blog. I am currently going thru EMDR therapy to deal with a trauma from 5 years ago…a man who was my boyfriend was physically abusive the night we broke up. It wasn’t enough for him to “tell” me he didn’t love me or want to be with me, he wanted to “show” me with physical abuse. So as a part of doing the EMDR therapy, I’ve started the blog to learn its safe to use my “voice” and be myself, that I don’t have to hide or run for cover anymore. Its definitely not meant for making money. Here is the website: https://achristianspeaks.wordpress.com/
    I hope you have a chance to see it, thank you so much Mandy for being an inspiration!

  9. January 24, 2016

    Thank you!’ What an encouraging post; though,your thoughts are very real and honest. I know I personally have a message that hits home for me. That is…the unbalanced life that many Christian women live. I’ve been there and have a message to deliver. Like you mentioned… when God’s calling is there, it has to be delivered- compensated or not. I’ve not jet begin to blog consistently, so I appreciate your prayers and also from all the ladies that read this. Thank you again for obeying your heart and writing this blog post. My integrated health coaching site is http://www.gisellegras.com Love ya!! Giselle from Miami

  10. January 24, 2016

    Oops…I meant “yet” not begun writing consistently! A typing error! Lol!!

  11. Amanda
    January 24, 2016

    I’m not a writer and don’t ever plan to be, but I love and appreciate you sharing the real, raw, honest truth about life. I think the same for what you said rings true with any passions we have. What’s your motivation for doing it? Thank you for not being afraid to write from the heart!

  12. January 24, 2016

    When I wrote my first blog post (https://walkerkaty0.wordpress.com/2015/02/11/stereotypically-able-movement-a-time-of-change-and-recognition/) almost a year ago, I had this fantasy that I would get a bunch of clicks the first day that I shared my story. Boy, was I wrong! I have gotten a lot of clicks on it, but that is AFTER I connected with other bloggers and took the time to put my page out there. I don’t make money from it and that’s okay. I write because I love it. End of story.

    Thank you Mandy for sharing this!

    P.S. Anyone feel free to check out my blog (first blog post posted above).

  13. January 24, 2016

    This was refreshing, on time, and sobering. I too could not make my peace with trying to sell ad space on my blog. I just want to do what I was created to do… and God has assured me that just like He does for the lilies, He will make a way for me to do that and meet my needs.

  14. Bob R
    January 24, 2016

    Mandy, I have been enjoying your blog and emails for several years now but I have been remiss in letting you know. I hesitated as I am sure that I am not your typical reader, I am not a single woman… I am old guy but having worked in Christian settings for many years I like to be informed of the thinking of others that are not like myself.

    I realized several years ago that single women are sometimes, maybe even frequently not considered when a church plans programs. Valentines Day is one of them, so after several comments from single gals we changed our old Valentines Day activity to “Friendship Day” where singles would feel more comfortable attending either as a single or with a friend.

    Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for you posts and for your bravery in stepping out of your comfort zone and being a voice for a sector of society that is frequently overlooked!

    • Mandy Hale
      January 24, 2016

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share your words of support, Bob! I really appreciate it. 🙂 ~Mandy

  15. January 25, 2016

    Hey Mandy! I find your blog really helpful and encouraging as I’m a single gal who has struggled with similar things that you talk about here. Thank you for being so open and honest in your writing to your readers. If you would like to take a look; I just started my own blog a week ago. http://www.onegirlrebel.wordpress.com Please let me know what you think!

  16. February 1, 2016

    I’ve seen my dad work at trying to become a published author for many years now. He works so hard, all the while serving the Lord and his family. He provides for us in so many ways, even though he hasn’t had that “breakthrough” yet or made any kind of regular income from his work. I pray one day he will and I congratulate you on your successes Mandy – I know how hard you must have worked. 🙂

    P.S. Here’s my lil ol’ blog: http://john-13-35.blogspot.com.au/

  17. February 4, 2016

    Mandy, I just recently stumbled on your blog and I can’t stop reading it! I am married but have a heart in particular for single mothers and to take it a step further, single mothers in the local church as they tend to feel (in my experience) as if they don’t have a place to “fit”. I started blogging last year and it is filling a space in my heart that was empty because I NEED TO WRITE! Thank you for your transparency in this post. Here’s a little post from my blog to encourage single moms and believers to come alongside them. https://walkinginthefreedomfaithprovides.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/come-sit-with-me/

  18. LOVE THIS!!! The reality of being a writer is exciting but not pretty. It’s not all Carrie Bradshaw and shoes. Lol! Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve been blogging for six years and I have to explain to many people that it’s not just writing and posting. It takes work and sleepless nights to make money. I can’t wait till Part 2!

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