By Chris Pepple, Writer-At-Large, Southern Writers Magazine
Who are you writing for? That’s a question I ask people when I am speaking to groups about writing careers. Are you writing for you, or are you just writing for someone else? Of course, everyone needs to make money if we are seeking a career as an author. Ideally, we could all sit at our computers and type every day knowing that enough money to live on would follow as soon as we submitted the work. Realistically, though, not all authors can just quit their day jobs to follow their publishing dreams. That doesn’t mean you should quit writing, however.
When you first start writing, you are probably going to have to write some articles or blog posts that benefit others financially more than they benefit you. While researching potential places to have your work published, you will find that the pay may not seem to match the effort. Remember, though, that you need to build your portfolio and get your name before readers. To launch your career, consider entering contests and finding freelance work even if that financial gain isn’t what you dreamed of. Sometimes, in the beginning, the income may seem small, but remember that building a portfolio that will eventually benefit you.
So, do you only write for others in the beginning? No, definitely not. Even when you are writing blog posts and website articles to boost the circulation for others, you still need to set aside some time each day (or at least each week) to work on your own projects. Create your own blog. Write 1,500 words a week minimum on your own novel. Write a poem a week so you can publish your own poetry book. Continue to submit articles to higher paying sources if you want to specialize in magazine writing. Never stop writing for yourself.
I remember many days spent interviewing restaurant owners in one neighborhood so their small city magazine could print their stories. Those articles never brought in much money, but they built my portfolio and fed my children while I worked on my book of short stories. I wrote to keep the magazine’s readers happy and buying ads for the owner, but I also finished my first book while doing that. It’s great to find jobs that build your portfolio and that keep you going in the beginning, but you have to keep your own writing goals in front of you and always take time to write for yourself.