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Quitting Your Day Job – Two-Year Update

Two years ago, I left my day job to focus solely on writing (a decision I documented in this Ruby post from October 2010). As the second anniversary closes in, I thought I would share with you how this grand experiment worked out, what I learned, and where I plan to go next.

Spoiler alert: I haven’t starved to death yet, so even if it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, there’s at least a ‘happy-for-now’ ending to this post πŸ˜‰

The Grand Experiment

Year One: I finished a book, shopped it to NYC, finaled for a Golden Heart with it, and received a slew of rejections (that took all of Year One, from October 2010 to September 2011).

Year Two: Based on some fancy-schmancy analysis of costs/potential earnings, I pulled the Year One manuscript submission from the remaining houses and self-published it. I edited the first book, completely rewrote my 2009 Golden Heart winning manuscript to be the second book, and released both books in 2012 (Heiress Without a CauseΒ in January as a Nook First pick, andΒ Scotsmen Prefer Blondes in April). I’m almost done with the third book in the series (The Marquess Who Loved Me, coming this fall), and I’m planning for the fourth book in the series and proposals for a new series to launch when this series ends.

But enough about that…let’s get to what I learned!

What I Learned

1) Full-time writing may not actually mean full-time writing

As it turns out, I don’t write much faster now than I did when I had a day job. However, the time I would have spent at my day job is now spent on a combo of activities that either make me more healthy/satisfied as a person (gym, friends, cooking, walking around the waterfront, Twitter) or relate to my book in some way (marketing, social media, staying caught up on the industry).

2) Taking time to adjust to full-time writing is critical

I expected to hit the ground running when I left the day job. Instead, I spent six months eating, going to the gym, and napping (with some writing in there, but not as much as I expected). Part of it was recovering from the intense burnout I had from my previous job, but a bigger part was that I didn’t have a routine and hadn’t given myself time to adjust to my new life – so every day I didn’t accomplish something made me more depressed. I eventually snapped out of it, but it took a long time. If you’re thinking about leaving your day job, I suggest giving yourself time to grieve for your old life (even if you hated it) and build a new life around your writing, rather than expecting that you’ll be immediately and optimally productive from the start. And, unlike me, forgive yourself for the days when you just watch ‘Say Yes to the Dress’ marathons πŸ™‚

3) Writing is a small business – and should be managed as such

Most small businesses lose money in their first couple of years of operation. With traditional publishing, you might not ‘lose’ money since you don’t have the same upfront costs as self-publishing – but you’re losing an opportunity cost if your manuscript is sitting for 1-2 years while it’s on submission and going through the publishing process. Conversely, self-pub can result in a lot of expenses before the book ever comes out, and you need to be realistic with how much you can spend, how much you should spend, and whether your investment has any hope of being earned back. I over-invested in marketing on my first book, and while I’ve earned it all back, I think there were some marketing efforts where I could have saved money if I’d been more careful early on.

4) Some thoughts on self-publishing

Self-publishing has been awesome for me, but I’m not rabidly pro-selfpub or anti-trad. It should *always* be a business decision, but I firmly believe that there’s more to the decision than the money. I happen to love self-pub because I like being in control, I was willing to invest money up front, and I’m earning faster than I would have with a trad deal (important since I’m not earning anything else).

However, my hypothesis is that the most robust careers in the long term will be for authors who have feet in both the trad and self-pub world – traditional for increased print distribution/better opportunities with marketing and reviews, and self-pub for being able to experiment with price, build readership through quick extra releases, and pivot into new genres that a trad publisher might not be willing to buy from you. While I’m happily self-pubbing, I’m also exploring traditional opportunities – and I suspect that in five years I will either have a foot in both worlds, or will no longer be writing for publication.

What Comes Next?

This is the question of the hour. My self-pub endeavor has been as successful as I could have expected, and I believe that with another couple of books out, I could write full-time without dipping into my savings. But I’m not quite there yet, and my business plan says I won’t be for at least a year. So, I’m exploring my options and deciding whether to go for broke and give myself another year (riskier than my initial decision to do this, although I still won’t starve to death), or pursue my passions for digital publishing and either work for an epublishing startup or start my own consulting firm.

I don’t know what the answers are. I knew when I started this that it would be highly unlikely to build an audience in two years that would support me full-time. But I’m pleased with where I am right now and confident that writing full-time (without burning savings to do it) is possible at some point in the not-so-distant future. It’s just a matter of how hard I can push myself to write faster (difficult for me), how much I can do to build a bigger readership, and whether I have the stomach for this kind of risk (my heart loves risk, but I’m prone to ulcers, so I may need to factor that into my decision πŸ˜‰

So that’s the two year update! Are any of you considering taking the plunge? If you’ve already quit your day job, what have you learned since you started writing full time? If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them, and I’ll answer everything as candidly as possible in the comments!

73 responses to “Quitting Your Day Job – Two-Year Update”

  1. Say Yes to the Dress — I love that show. Ironically, I get paid to watch it as part of my day job. Watched it *today* in fact. There was a bride who wanted a dress with sparkles at the top and “drama at the bottom” and kept falling in love with dresses that cost more than a car…

    Ahem, back to the core of your post, thank you for sharing the realities of writing full-time. I’m glad to hear you’re not starving and that you’ve been productive during your Grand Experiment so far! I think we all fantasize about writing in our PJs all day, but there’s more to it than that, as you’ve shown.

    If I could support myself and the cats through writing earnings alone, I’d probably work out of the home one day at week for the social aspect. And so I can unashamedly watch reality TV shows.

    Looking forward to seeing how year three goes, Sara! Please remember to let me know when your self-pubbed books are available on Kindle for us Antipodeans.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      You get paid to watch ‘Say Yes to the Dress’?! Ladies, ignore all my advice and move to Australia to work with Vanessa!

      One thing I forgot to mention is that I often work at coffee shops – less now that I’m more comfortable with the solitude thing, but it’s amazing what some good people-watching can do for my mood and productivity. And trust me, in San Francisco there is *always* good people watching πŸ™‚

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  2. Jeannie Lin says:

    It’s inspiring to see how you’ve planned this out and the way you’re approaching the business side of writing. Just like the start of any business, I think you have to anticipate the risk and cost of the initial investment. So glad to hear you’re enjoying the experience!

    Though it’s a dream, I’m not considering quitting the dayjob. (Need to save for twin college funds – eek!) I do aspire to be able to afford the nanny with my writing income though. Hope to do it before the kidlets don’t need a nanny anymore!

    Question – how has the indie market been for historical romance? Since the big buzz word seems to be ‘discoverability’ these days, what did you do to make your books discoverable?

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      I’m sure my decisions would have been very different if I had anyone to support (and put through college!) other than myself! But I think the goal of hiring a nanny is a great one.

      As for discoverability/historicals…this is purely gut calculations, but I’d say historical overall does less well self-pubbed than paranormal and erotica. I’m guessing the average readership age skews a little older, and I think the historical crowd discovers books even more through word-of-mouth via trusted reviews from friends rather than blogs/fan sites. Just a guess, though.

      For me, the single biggest thing I did for discoverability was Nook First for my first book. I’m still selling more books on Nook than Kindle (an anomaly, from what I’ve heard from other authors), and it gave me a bit of ‘legitimacy’ (for lack of a better word). Beyond that, I think it’s really been word of mouth – and giving away 40 or 50 books on Goodreads to help up my review numbers (mixed bag, since some people loved it and some people gave it 1-star for having sex in it – go figure πŸ™‚

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  3. Thanks for sharing this. When my husband was asked to move to Bangalore for a two year job assignment, I was excited about the opportunity to live in a city with a much lower cost of living that would allow me to quit my job and try the writing thing as a real job.

    And then our house didn’t sell. We found a renter, but without having absolute certainty that money would be coming in every month, it would have been tight to try and pay for a rental and a mortgage.

    So when I told my boss I was moving to India and he offered to let me work part time remotely, I said yes. Sigh.

    And then we didn’t find a school we liked for the boys. So I’m homeschooling too. Sigh.

    But I made myself a promise to continue to write…because someday, somehow, I want it to be a full-time job.

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    • Wow, Lorenda – life sure has some interesting twists and turns sometimes. And sometimes some whammies. I’ve considered homeschooling, but I think it would drive me insane after a while. πŸ™‚

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Lorenda, congrats again on winning the Golden Heart πŸ™‚

      I’m sorry to hear that your plans didn’t work out the way you wanted them to. I moved to Hyderabad for six months in 2005 for work and thought I’d use my free time writing, but I think I wrote a single chapter. But, the experiences I had there profoundly changed who I am, and I’m going back to them now by writing a hero who has just returned from ten years in early 19th century India. So…you never know how this experience will play into your writing, even if you’re not producing as many words as you thought you would. I hope you enjoy it!

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  4. Liz Talley says:

    I shiver at the thought of homeschooling my children, Lorenda. Today they are home with me, thanks to Tropical Storm Isaac, and I’ve already be asked to fix the ten year old toaster pastries. Really? You’re ten and can’t put them in a toaster? Grr…I digress.

    I took the plunge and quit my part time job in order to write fulltime before I sold my first book. I’m fortunate in a sense that my husband makes enought to support our family, BUT I like to work and need a sense of purpose. I never did well as a SAHM and was only truly happy (if not stressed) when I worked and brought in a little money to contribute to the fam. So it felt like a big leap…not as big as Sara’s. But still.

    As for making a living, no, not really. But I am making enough money to pay for the frivolities of life. Yeah,I buy the good stuff – vacations, camp for the kids and other goodies. It’s satisfying to me to be able to feel somewhat successful. The down-side is that people assume I don’t work so I’m called often to carpool or serve on committees or watch my sick neices. Even today I told the kids, “You may be off today, but I’m not. Fix your own toaster pastries.” The line between SAHM and writer gets blurred too often.

    Congrats on your success, Sara. I’m so proud of you for making a plan and creating your own success!

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    • Liz, I like how you put it – the “frivolities” of life. Right now, for me, that might be a couple dinners out or a couple nights of vacation, but I hope down the road I’ll have built my career enough to help out with college tuition (for three kiddos – yikes). Better get back to writing… LOL

      But I also wanted to comment on your “needing a purpose.” I’m that way, too. I thought being a SAHM would be enough, but I soon found out I felt like I needed something for myself, too. Took me a while to realize that wasn’t selfish, just part of who I am and what would make me happy…which would make my kids happy in the long run. πŸ˜‰

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      lol at your ten-year-old – and I think you raise a good point at how easily SAHM and writer get blurred. I don’t have kids, and yet I still ended up volunteering more than before. I do way more around the house than my roommate. And if a friend has the day off, they call me up. But they don’t call me up as often as they used to – and I’ve gotten very good (bad?) at screening my calls and not answering if it’s someone who I know will distract me.

      I also think it’s easy to glamorize writing full-time – but there are days when I feel incredibly unproductive, and my income fluctuates every month. If I were comparing myself, consciously or self-consciously, to a husband who made a steady income every month, I think I would really struggle with it. But I’m so glad that your writing is contributing (because it is, Ms. Harlequin Rising Star ;), and I hope you continue to feel valued and valuable because of it:)

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  5. Oh, a subject I’m sort of an expert of. Two and half years ago, I became a full time writer. Out of choice, COUGH, no. Like you, I thought, finally I’ll have all the time I ever wanted to follow my dream. I did go through extended a stage and you’re right it’s important to so. Then the world realized I no longer went to work where someone else paid me and the calls for volunteer your time came. Don’t go down that hole. Pick one org, maybe two if you’re a volunteer, but set limits, because you are starting a business. Most small business owners works 80 plus hours a week.

    And make sure your family understands this too. It is so easy to say yes bring the grandkids to me, because they are so damn cute and you love them so much, but you really can easily get into the habit of playing with fingerpaints and Barbie and and not working on the wip. Not saying they can’t come, you just need fit family into your schedule or schedule your writing around family. Jumping into full-time writing career is an adjustment.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Totally agree – no one is going to take your career seriously unless you do. And if you’re not setting limits and working regularly, you’re signaling that your writing is less important than anything else – which makes it easy for the relatives and friends and community members to pile other stuff on your plate.

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  6. Vivi Andrews says:

    I’m three and a half years from my own decision to wave goodbye to the day job and I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said here. It took me about six weeks to adjust to the switch, I still don’t write substantially more than I did with a day job, and the first year was definitely in the red. But I’m very VERY happy with the decision.

    Good luck to you as you continue making it work (Tim Gunn-style)!

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  7. Tamara Hogan says:

    At this point, quitting the day job isn’t a reality for me – the ability to pay the mortgage is nice, as is having health insurance! – but when I signed a three-book contract, I DID work with my awesome employer to restructure my workload, allowing me to cut back to 3/4 time. Like you, Sara, I’ve found that I don’t use those extra hours to work on my WIP, but to manage other aspects of the business: writing blog posts, reading them, writing proposals, doing research, judging contests, responding to email and so on. Having those extra hours available to work on other writing things helps me remain focused on my WIP when I’m actively working on it, if that makes sense. There are fewer competing demands elbowing for space in my head.

    Thanks for the update, Sara!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      It’s great that you were able to carve out space for the business side of writing so that the writing itself didn’t suffer – while I could have written these books and still had my day job, it would have taken me slightly longer and I wouldn’t have been able to do nearly as much on the business side. But going part or 3/4s time seems like a great compromise, since it gives you security while still giving a bit more time to focus on writing.

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  8. I quit my day job 14 years ago and got a part-time position as a crossing guard to pay the food bill. (My husband is my benefactor) I figure, by now, I owe our savings account about $400,000 dollars in lost wages. My dear husband has always said he prefers a happy wife over more money and he had faith that my writing would eventually be our retirement plan.

    Since I dove into the indie market in February, I’ve been earning twice as much as I ever have and make enough now to support myself if something should happen to my hubby. Will I live on champagne and caviar? No. But I could pay the mortgage and bills and have enough left over to go out to lunch on occasion.

    If I continue to earn what I am making now (hopefully it will be more) it should take about 6 years to earn back what my writing career has cost us in potential income. So right about the time my hubby retires, I hope to be in the black on my imaginary balance sheet. So I guess my hubby’s faith wasn’t too far misplaced after all.

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing your update, Sara, and congrats on your success so far. For me to biggest challenge and biggest eventual boost to my writing productivity was setting a writing routine, and treating my writing like a job long before it actually became one. I’ve been writing on deadline for a while now, and I find that I have to constantly update my routine to keep my writing productive (for example, my summer schedule is different from when my kids are back in school). And I recently changed to working for short periods with a timer (25 minutes) as a way to break up my day and still power through finishing a book.

    I say stick with the writing as long as you can, and if you have to do other work, pick something that feeds your creativity without sapping your energy. Cheers!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      I love the timer idea, Elizabeth – it’s something I use when I’m struggling to get into a scene, since I can force myself to write for ‘only’ 25 minutes rather than feeling daunted by promising that I’ll write 2000 words. Your advice about occasionally switching up your routine is wonderful – every writer has a different process, and it’s all about finding whatever works for you to help you meet your deadlines πŸ™‚

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  10. What a great post! I left a corporate job to open a one-person consulting business 10 years ago and started writing fiction four years ago. One of the surprises to me on this journey has been how much I need “outside” interaction for inspiration and energy. I’ve also become more aware that each writer’s path is unique — I kept looking for a model that suited me perfectly and realized I needed to come up with my own.
    I’m inspired by the comments here that speak of earning for retirement, making up lost wages, etc. Very hopeful.
    P.S. I live in North Louisiana, where my writing day, like Liz’s, has been interrupted by Isaac and school closings.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      I hope Isaac doesn’t cause too much damage for you – you’re in my thoughts. I’m in Iowa visiting my parents right now, and it seems that the midwest is less concerned about the hurricane itself and more obsessed with whether it will result in any rainfall up here – it’s been a ruinously dry year for them. Hopefully Isaac doesn’t dump everything on you guys!

      Leaving corporate America to start anything – a consulting firm, writing, another business – takes a lot of courage, and I applaud you for it. I’m sure what you learned during that process can only help you with you’re writing.

      And you’re absolutely right that every writer’s path is unique – I read tons of writers’ memoirs, how-to-write books, etc., and found that none of them fully resonated with me. I take bits and pieces from each one, but I’m starting to learn how to be at peace with the fact that I write in fits and starts (5000 words one day, 0 for the next three days, a thousand words next, etc., rather than the regimented 1000 or 2000 words a day that everyone seems to recommend). Best of luck to you, and I hope you’ve found a process that works for you!

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I occasionally struggle with the fact that I write a certain number of hours a day rather than to a daily word count, like I’m “supposed” to. πŸ˜‰

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        • I occasionally struggle that I’ve reverted back to a writing regime like when the kids lived at home and I had to write in total snippets. Some weeks are still like that, but I’m learning to put my ear plugs in and go with the flow.

          I guess we all have that dream of staying in our PJ, butt in chair for endless hours, writing. The problem with that dream, soon the butt would be to big to get out of the chair. Interaction is good not only good for the writer’s soul but the writer’s body too.

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  11. June Love says:

    Sara, I love hearing about your transition and am glad it’s worked out for you. I made the decision to quit my job at the end of 2012 and concentrate on my writing. I gave them a six month notice only to be told the company was closing at the end of the year. Fate? I think so. Did I hit the ground churning out page after page? Um, no. Between the adjustment period you mentioned and my mother’s health issues, it’s just not happening. My mother is on the mend and will soon no longer need my constant care. In the meantime, I grab whatever time I can to jot down a paragraph or two. I’m still looking at this as my adjustment stage. By the beginning of 2013, I plan to have my writing business in place.
    Thanks again for sharing your journey.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      June, hugs for you and your mom. Life happens, and while I sometimes resent it happening and taking away from my writing, I also feel so fortunate that I’m now flexible enough to prioritize ‘life’ if I need to. My dad had surgery in May, and while he’s better now, I felt so blessed that I was able to be home with him for that. The key, I think, is to spend time with your family for the important stuff, but also set boundaries for the less important stuff so that you don’t get sucked into taking care of everyone all the time.

      Or in other words, you can’t change what happened to your mom – but you can use this time to make plans for the future so that when your schedule opens up, you can hit the ground running. I hope 2013 is wonderfully productive and fulfilling for you – keep us posted!

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  12. Lynn Tyler says:

    Thanks for the update. Quitting my day job has been something I’ve been toying with for a while.

    While I don’t self pub my books, I am lucky to have success in the e-pub world and am making almost as much in royalties as I do in salary.

    Our plan is for me to stay at my day job until my youngest is in school, pay off all our consumer debt (which should be by the end of the year) and sock away as much in our savings account as possible before I take the plunge.

    Thanks for laying it out there. It makes me feel better to know I’m not the only person who’s crazy enough to consider making a living off writing.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Lynn, it sounds like you have a great plan in place. I did similar things to prepare as much as possible (paid off my car, saved everything I could, was otherwise debt free). It really is just a matter of how comfortable you are with risk, and having a plan to mitigate as many risks as possible. But if your royalties are already bringing in nearly as much as your salary, you’re ahead of where I was when I quit – without knowing the particulars of your situation, it sounds completely feasible to write full time. Best of luck to you, and I hope your writing continues to flourish!

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  13. Sara, thanks so much for sharing so candidly with your two year update. I am in awe of the way you’ve gone into this with such planning as I tend to take the flounder around in the dark and hope something sticks approach. πŸ˜‰

    I haven’t had to quit my day job (haven’t had one since my boys were born), but finances quite frankly suck, so I’m trying to turn my writing into a day-job earning ‘business’. Not anywhere near that yet, which depresses me sometimes, but I just keep plugging ahead. Hopefully I’ll get there one day.

    I completely agree with you that having a foot in both ‘camps’ is probably the most ideal for the long term. That’s what I’m shooting for.

    Oh, and if you discover the trick to writing faster while keeping the same quality of work can you let me in on it? I’ve been trying, but ugh, I can’t seem to manage it.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Cynthia, if I found the trick to writing faster at the same level of quality, I’d write a how-to book on it, sit back and watch the profits flood in, and possibly never need to write anything else ever again πŸ™‚ I’m really just not a fast writer. And that’s probably the single biggest obstacle holding me back; the self-pubbers I see making a lot of money tend to be those who can put out 4-6 novellas a year. I’m toying with trying to write shorter pieces instead of just writing faster – but I don’t know if novellas are my thing either. Sigh.

      But I have high hopes for you, and I think this is just a business that requires insane levels of perseverance. I will say, though, as someone who loves to plan – even if you don’t have a fancy 10-page life plan, try picking a goal for the next month or six months and working toward that. And pick a goal *you* can control (“I will finish this project”) vs one others control (“I will sell 5000 copies of this project”). That tends to help me stay focused and also gives me something to celebrate even on the days when I feel like I’m not making enough money πŸ™‚

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  14. Great post, Sara! It’s good to hear the good and the bad about your “experiment!” And I am glad it is going so well. You’ve listed some really great aspects and things to consider when giving up the day job for a full-time writing career. And I think you are very right in encouraging people to give themselves a break if they don’t dive right in and write a hundred pages a day.

    I really want to get OUT of my day job and write full-time, but right now the DDJ (Dreaded Day Job) pays for little luxuries like food, electricity, health insurance and living indoors!

    In order to write my way out of Walmart I am going to have to step-up my output. I think whichever way a writer goes – traditional or self-pub – having a stack of finished books probably helps!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      You make a great point, Louisa – having a stack of finished books can definitely be a huge help in the path to being self-sufficient as an author. I *thought* I had two books ready to go (my 2009 winner and my 2011 finalist) when I decided to self-pub. Then I reread the 2009 book and realized it sucked, so I rewrote the whole thing. Had I not spent five months in mad dash to rewrite it, I could have written a different book during that time – which means the project I’m working on now could have been book 4 instead of book 3. I’m currently estimating I need at least 6 books out to be self-sufficient – so having several finished projects can be a very good thing.

      But keep your day job if it’s providing you the luxury of living indoors – I don’t write well when my hands have chilblains πŸ™‚ And rain can really impede writing on both laptops and notebooks! I hope you’re able to write your way out of Walmart soon, though – fingers crossed for you!

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  15. I appreciate you sharing this, Sara. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to work out of the home, though I am a stay-at-home-mom, so my writing time is limited to school hours and snatches of time otherwise. But I find having other activities and responsibilities pulling at me does help me creatively, so I think the balance works for me.

    Good luck – can’t wait to hear about the upcoming release and how year 3 goes for you! πŸ™‚

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Anne Marie, thanks for the comment – it sounds like you’ve got a balance that really works for you, which is fantastic! And I agree that having other commitments/activities beyond writing can help creatively; hence my attempt to be kinder to myself when I slack off and go to the movies or see friends, since I need those interactions to stay creative.

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  16. Kate Parker says:

    Sara, glad your well thought out plan is working well for you.

    I took early retirement almost 8 years ago to take care of my invalid hubbie with the hope of writing on the side. My nursing was more successful than I expected, because he’s doing well enough to still be with us and actually improving. It took me a couple of years to get my writing pattern down, but once I did, I haven’t looked back.

    I’ve found a business plan I review annually has been a great help in steering me in the right direction.

    The biggest help in my writing life has been the kids are grown. I don’t even know the school schedule anymore!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Kate, I think your advice about having a plan and *reviewing* it is crucial, and something I forgot to mention. Plans are all well and good, but if they just sit in a desk drawer and you never check in on them and readjust, then they don’t do anything for you. I’m off to rereview my plan right now – it’s yearly with my birthday as the start of each year, and since my birthday is in less than two weeks, now’s the time to adjust it πŸ™‚

      Thanks again for the comment, and I’m glad to hear that you have a writing pattern down!

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  17. Thank you so much for this post–I hope to be successful enough in my writing career someday to be able to treat it like a business and quit the day job (since I know I won’t have time/energy for both when things pick up writing-wise). Fantastic advice–I hope to put it into practice when the time is right.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Best of luck to you! I truly think making writing a full-time career is possible, as long as you are realistic about the obstacles and have a plan to overcome them.

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  18. Dani Wade says:

    Very interesting, Sara, and really encouraging to see someone who approaches decisions like these the way I do — with lots of planning. πŸ™‚

    Our circumstances would have to change drastically for me to quit my job, especially since I currently provide the family health insurance. But its nice to dream. Actually, I think I do well with it at the moment, because being so busy requires me to schedule the writing in. But it gets old and tiring sometimes. One day, maybe.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Dani, if you want it, I hope one day you’ll get it! I’ll fully acknowledge that I’m in an easier position than some people in regards to quitting – I don’t have kids to worry about/feed/put through school, and I’m still in my early 30s, which means buying my own health insurance isn’t too ridiculous yet.

      Those are big factors in how long I can keep writing full-time and how much I need to make to feel comfortable – I can keep pulling in low wages for a couple of years, but I’d like to have kids eventually and I know my healthcare costs will go up, so when I look at my writing income goals, they’re probably closer to 2x what I need to make now to support just myself. And that number is scary πŸ™‚

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  19. What a great post, Sara! Thanks for all your knowledge and insight.

    I found much the same thing when I first quit my day job in terms of productivity. It just didn’t go up. I thought, “Wow! I can write six books a year now!”

    Um, no.

    There is so much to do and only so many hours in the day. And used to be that one book a year was what was expected in NY. Now it’s anywhere from 2-4 or even more, along with all the social networking and promoting, etc. I’ve written two books so far this year and have another due Dec 1st. If I wasn’t so easily distracted, maybe I COULD write 6 books a year. LOL!

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Three books in a year….that sounds pretty darned productive to me!!! Congrats, Darynda!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Thanks for the comment, Darynda! And I’m (selfishly) glad to hear I’m not the only one whose productivity didn’t go up tremendously after leaving the day job. I fully admit that there’s an element of procrastination holding me back – but I also think that there are pieces of the story that I just cannot force to come together any faster, regardless of how much time I spend beating my head against them. I think my next tactic will be to try two projects at once, so when I’m stuck on one I can work on the other.

      Or maybe that’s just more wishful thinking πŸ™‚

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  20. Amanda says:

    For me it has been a kick in the pants from a special man in my life. I have been out of work due to injury and surgery. Got back in touch with an old flame and with all the book that he and I compare he told me I should try getting out my own ideas. Took a few weeks but he finally told me to just sit down and write my ideas and then expand them. Sometimes all you need is a loved one telling you that you can do it to boost you on your way. Thanks so much for your updates and inspiration. Can’t wait to stay in touch. Blessed Be.

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    • Amanda, I’m so sorry to hear you’ve had health issues. I and many of the Rubies know actually where you are. It sounds like reconnecting with the old flame was the right thing to do. Having someone in your corner, makes it so much easier. I hope you’re on the mend and keep working toward your dream.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Amanda, thanks so much for stopping by. I’m sorry to hear about your health issues, but I’m thrilled that you have someone in your life who can inspire and motivate you. That’s something that I wasn’t explicit enough about in my post, but I absolutely couldn’t have done this without having friends and family who pushed me to keep going at critical moments. I hope you pursue your dream, and I can’t wait to hear where it takes you!

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  21. Thanks for this excellent post, Sara! You can blame Darynda for sending me here. ;o)

    I have four kids under the age of 9, including a pair of 5 year old twins. This makes writing somewhat…problematical.

    Last Monday they started public school and I’ve been making all sorts of plans about how I’m going to be writing like the wind while they’re gone. So far it hasn’t really happened – instead I’ve been crawling back into bed with my husband and catching up on some much needed sleep.

    But I’ve decided not to feel guilty about it – instead, I’ve given myself this week to rest and recuperate, and if I get some writing done in between naps, well…so much the better!

    Guilt is unproductive. Between kids, husband, and chronic pain, I’m not as efficient as I’d like to be, but I take pride in what I CAN do. I’ve published one book and seen good sales and feedback on it, and I’m working on the sequel. One of these days I might even make this thing pay for itself! πŸ˜‰

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    • Oh, Michaela, the temptation of sleep! πŸ™‚ I hear you. I have three (also under the age of 9) and am so excited that they’ve started school…except the littlest was sent home today with a fever. πŸ™ It begins already…

      I love that you’re giving yourself a week off. I was hoping to do the same before diving back into a routine and re-establishing balance. Once I figure out how all their after-school activities will play out, I can get into a weekly groove.

      Enjoy that extra sleep! πŸ™‚

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Definitely, definitely take a week off! Everyone needs a break sometimes – and one of the things I didn’t mention in my post is that I am thinking about scheduling legitimate vacations a couple of weeks a year so that I get a real break. As a writer, it’s easy to work from anywhere – but that means it’s way too easy to feel like you should work all the time. I hope you enjoy your week off and that it’s easier to jump back into writing next week!

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  22. Mary Leach says:

    This is a very inspirational post. Thank You! I’m new to the writing family and have no idea on how to even get started on who to contact or where to go to even publish a book and start selling it. Any pointers for me?

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    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Do you write romance? If so, go straight to rwa.org (Romance Writers of America) and join if you can possibly afford it. RWA provides amazing resources for writers of romance!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Welcome to the writing world! I second what Elisa says – join RWA if you write romance and can afford it. But when I was still dipping my toes into the writing world, I learned a lot by reading blogs like this one, or blogs written by my favorite authors. I also started reading agent and editor blogs, since they can give a lot of insights into the query process, what’s selling in the marketplace, etc.

      And my favorite place to learn is Twitter – you can follow anyone you want, and if you follow writers, book reviewers, agents, and editors, they tend to say really helpful things and also post links to informative blogs. I’d suggest starting with authors in your genre whose books you love, and then branch out to other writers, bloggers, etc. And the connections you build on twitter could turn into opportunities someday, or give you friendly faces at writers’ conferences.

      Best of luck to you – and if you do sign up for twitter, follow me @sara_ramsey πŸ™‚ I’d love to hear where your writing takes you!

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  23. Elisa Beatty says:

    Fabulous post, Sara!!! Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I’m in awe of your accounting skills and your risk-taking ability!

    My day job is SOOOO freakin’ overwhelming, but I need every penny to pay the bills. I dream of being able to quit and write full time.

    It’s fascinating to hear so many of you who’ve taken the plunge say you’re not necessarily more productive than you were while working. Hmm. But you must at least be less exhausted and more able to focus when you do work.

    Can’t wait to hear what Year Three brings!!!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Thanks so much, Elisa!! I’m definitely sleeping more than I was when I had a day job. But I traded the stress of going to work for the stress of wondering whether my writing career will take off, so I think that part was a wash πŸ™‚

      I hope that this year is wonderful for you and that you can carve out the time you need for writing! But the path is always still there even if there are days when you can’t make any progress down it – and I have faith that you’ll keep making progress πŸ™‚

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  24. Emma Larkins says:

    Love these thoughts! Sara, you’re an inspiration πŸ™‚ I think the important things to take away from this is a.) you need a solid goal, and b.) you need to be ready to shift to make that goal happen, even if it’s in an unexpected way. I quit my “day job” with a vague notion of writing online, or publishing a book (maybe), or something, and floundered without that main goal. Another important thing is just to know yourself. I’ve found that having a part-time job that I have to show up to every day has really helped focus me in my writing and stop from messing around.

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    • Emma, It’s interesting that you said, “I’ve found that having a part-time job that I have to show up to every day has really helped focus me in my writing and stop from messing around.” Because I’ve thought of doing the same for the reasons you mentioned and to get me out of the house among other people. But, family obligations are keeping me right here for now. It’s nice to know it works for others though. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Emma, thanks so much for commenting! I think it definitely helped that I had a strong sense of what I wanted to accomplish when I quit – and even then, I wasn’t maximally focused. And that goal does change over time; I decided to self-publish rather than continuing to seek a traditional deal, and I’m working on a YA project on the side even though I know I need to focus on my Regency platform.

      Your part-time job observation is really valuable, though – I’ve thought about that for myself, particularly if I ever leave San Francisco and move someplace where I need to meet people. I don’t have a part-time job, but I do have a vow to always shower and put on real clothes (not just sweats) for at least a few hours a day – it’s amazing how much more productive I am when I get dressed like I’m going out in public rather than hanging out in pajamas πŸ™‚

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      • Tamara Hogan says:

        I’m cracking up here about your comments about getting a PT job so dressing…occurs. As a telecommuter, I go at that one kinda backwards: on workdays, I get up, get dressed (jeans, T-shirt, swestshirt), go write at the coffee shop. when I’m done writing, I come home, UNdress, put on the sweats and slippers, and then start my workday. Bathing occurs during lunchtime, which is spent in the bathtub with a book in my hand. πŸ˜‰

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  25. Gwyn says:

    You’re amazing, Sara. I’m not much of a planner, so a leap of faith such as you describe would terrify me. I’m in awe.

    I truly wish I could have latched onto some of the advice gtiven above while my children were younger. Perhaps I would have done things differently, made them see the writing as important. Even now, although they talk the talk, when they ‘need’ me (the youngest in in her 30s, for heaven’s sake!), it never occurs to them I won’t stop what I’m doing and do for them.

    Whose fault is that, you ask? Mine. No matter how hard I try, the blame falls squarely on me. I figured I’d have plenty of time once they were grown (I was still in my 40s when youngest turned 20). No sense in rocking the boat. But life doesn’t care about our plans, and mine were soon swirling their way down the john.

    To make matters worse, I think they wrote the song “All or Nothing at All” for me. When I’m writing, that’s ALL I’m doing. It consumes me. Same goes for any project I pursue. So snagging snippets of time isn’t an option, nor is developing a writing routine during the hours when businesses and doctors’ offices are open. So I write in the wee hours, hit the hay at dawn, and often drive for several hours with little sleep, but I’m not giving up this time. Just because it didn’t turn out like I planned, doesn’t mean it won’t turn out at all.

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    • Go, Gwyn. We all have to find our own way and it sounds like you have a plan in place, even though you don’t think so. Yeah, you!

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      • Gwyn says:

        (Can you tell I’m still kicking myself for being so short-sighted back in the day? *sigh*)

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        • Sara Ramsey says:

          You can’t change the past – but you can change your patterns for the future. There’s no sense beating yourself up over choices you made; you made the best choices you could at the time based on your priorities then and the information you had available to you. But if you have different priorities now, it’s within your right to pursue them – even if it rocks the boat a little with your kids when you start giving yourself permission to put your writing above their needs at least some of the time. You’re a strong woman with a lot of dreams – and it’s never too late to go after them πŸ™‚

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          • Gwyn says:

            True, Sara. The only reason I share my mistake now is as a caution to others: If you don’t make writing a priority, no one else will. I didn’t demand the respect my goals deserved, and there’s a price to be paid for that. I failed to teach my children my aspirations were worthy of respect. It’s my fault. So I deal. 20/20 hindsight can be quite lowering. *sigh*

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        • Tamara Hogan says:

          –> When I’m writing, that’s ALL I’m doing. It consumes me. Same goes for any project I pursue. So snagging snippets of time isn’t an option, nor is developing a writing routine during the hours when businesses and doctors’ offices are open.

          The way you phrase this concerns me, Gwyn. Is how you’re doing things now getting you the results you want? Is any option really not an option until you’ve given it a solid try? The options you describe – snagging snippets of time, developing a writing routine – are the things we hear over and over again as being how working writers get things done.

          Mix things up a bit, and see what happens! Get on a schedule, BICHOK, and make it stick with your kids. “I’m writing from 8 to 10, but I’d be happy to help you after that.” They’ll survive. Change things up, because your writing is too damn good for the world not to see.

          I DARE YOU. ((hugs))

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          • Gwyn says:

            You are so sweet, Tammy. Thank you. As for the dare, I’m doing my best, but snippets works only for editing. While writing, it takes me between 15-30 minutes just to transport myself into the story. Once there, I lose track of time and reality. If I’m pulled out in the middle—well, let’s say I’m not the most pleasant gal. Which is why I choose the wee hours: no phone, no distractions. Of course, too often that also means no sleep! πŸ˜›

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  26. Kim Law says:

    OK, now you’ve all scared me!!! Really? I’ll need that much of an adjustment period? I expected some, but wow. What if I have a tight deadline? Will that keep me more focused, do you think? Or maybe if I continue working part time for a short while (which I think will be requested) that’ll keep me more focused and my adjustment period will be less of an issue?

    Or am I just dreaming??? *sigh* Either way…it’s going to happen! πŸ™‚

    Thanks for sharing all this Sara! I often wonder just how it’s working for you.

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      You really may not need that much time! Vivi said in an earlier comment that it took her six weeks to adjust. And what I didn’t mention was that I *did* finish a book during that six months…I left in October, had a draft ready to go for the Golden Heart in December, and got it shaped up to send out to editors in April. But at the time, I had rosy visions of writing a book in three months. And I was so hard on myself, and so not used to spending all day every day alone at my desk, that that accomplishment didn’t feel good enough somehow.

      So, bottom line of this comment – you may still be able to write. It’s the rest of life that may be hard to get used to for awhile πŸ™‚

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  27. Sara, thanks so much for the update. I love hearing the good and the bad!

    I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for quite a few years, so I haven’t had to make any hard choices about employment. But I do know that no matter how often I try to convince myself I can sit and write for eight hours at a stretch, I can’t seem to manage it. But as long as I can make my deadlines, I’m okay with that.

    I’ll be interested in hearing the results, if you decide to go for that third year! I’ll be pulling for you!

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    • Sara Ramsey says:

      Thanks so much, Tina! I keep getting seduced by the idea of being Nora Roberts and writing for eight hours a day, but I just don’t see how I can do it. It takes a certain type of personality, I think, and that personality is not mine πŸ™‚

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  28. Rita Henuber says:

    I can hardly believe it’s been tow years.
    I quite my day job 8 years ago. never looked back.
    Wishing you loads of success so you can stay home and keep giving us these great books.

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  29. Addison Fox says:

    Sara:

    Thanks so much for the update! I’m glad the 2 years have been good to you and it sounds like you’ve really used the time to make choices that make you happy – not only the writing, but all the other things that make up a happy and productive life.

    Thanks for sharing with us!
    Addison

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