During high school, my good friend and I were trying to decide whether to be writers, or attend law school. In my first English class at college, the professor assigned Beowulf. I spent ten weeks dissecting an epic Old English story. I never took another English class. My friend became a writer. I went to law school.
Since then, I’ve tried various things to “become” a paid writer, but realized that there is a difference between getting a piece published…and making money. After many years, I crossed the invisible line, and decided that I would only offer a piece for publication if I received some remuneration. That helped me take my writing seriously. Then, I got creative.
In 2015, I piloted a workshop called The Butterfly Series, a writing and creative arts workshop for women who want to explore what’s next. I figured that, if I wasn’t going to make all my money from writing, maybe I could find a way to write, and make some income from writing. I designed exactly the type of workshop I yearned to take. People signed up and then more people signed up. In August 2018, I self-published The Butterfly Series: Fifty-two Weeks of Inquiries for Transformation.
Here’s what I learned:
If you are beating yourself up about not making a living at writing, read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic. That book was a turning point for me.
It’s easier to make money doing something that comes easily to you. Since teaching and designing workshops was easy for me, I began there instead of trying to learn a new skill. I did not, for example, begin with web-based learning/e-learning. I started with in-person workshops for people who live locally, which was my low-hanging fruit.
Take an honest inventory of the skills you have to offer, and then pilot a class, workshop, or webinar with six friends at no charge. What you need to ask for in return is extensive, candid feedback on your product. Revise, then advertise, and charge.
Join a writer’s association or group. When I joined a writing group for other mothers, I got connected to events and opportunities that helped get my name out in the local writer’s community.
The Butterfly Series currently has four income streams:
Tuition from Part I of the series – a 6-month writing and creative arts workshop. www.thebutterflyseries.com
Tuition from Part II – quarterly workshops for participants who sign up to continue the writing and art series.
Royalties from the book I self-published that sells for $20. I sell it via social media, at trunk shows I host, and at book events. It’s also available online.
Coaching fees. As a result of the workshop, I am often hired as a life coach. This works well since I do executive coaching for nonprofit executives as part of my other paid work. Again, begin with what you already know how to do.
Best of all, I get to write creatively during the workshops, and about the workshop. Once I accepted that my entire income would not come from writing, a door opened, and I walked through. Each year, the income from The Butterfly Series increases, and creates new networking opportunities. Having self-published a book, and learned many lessons from that experience, I now have another topic I can talk about in blogs, at conferences, and on panels.
Take the opportunity now to brainstorm a list of the skills you have to offer, and how they might intersect with opportunities for you to write more, or be more professionally connected to the writing world. Don’t hesitate. Get creative!
Maria Ramos Chertok is a writer, workshop leader, and coach whose work focuses on transformation. She is finalizing her debut novel Rosie’s Blues, a story inspired by her family home being opened as a shelter for battered women and their children. She lives in the SF Bay Area. For more information, visit www.mariaramoschertok.com.
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Writing is a constant dialogue between author and reader.
The craft of writing involves an interchange of emotions between an author and a reader. An author creates a story line, conflict, and characters, gives his characters words to speak, and then hands off these materials to a reader. This process results in a constant dialogue between the mental imagery produced by a reader and that proposed by the author.
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