There are some things going on behind the scenes, which I really don’t wish to talk about on a public blog, that impacts how much I write. I realize I upset some people when I can’t get a book out by a promised date. I didn’t set out to push back the dates on the pre-orders, but I had to do it.
I think there’s this idea out there that writing is easy. And I also think the reason this idea exists is because movies (for a large part) have given us (at least in the United States) a portrayal of what a writer’s life is supposedly like, and this is a myth.
This is the myth I’m talking about:
An author is sitting in a cozy office or a secluded cabin, merrily typing away in their story. Soothing music plays in the background. From time to time, they sip a drink or smoke a cigarette. It’s peaceful and serene. There’s no real effort at all with writing the book. The story just comes to them.
Then, when they finish the book, they go back to their agent at a fancy restaurant where they laugh and discuss their next book. Then they publish the book and there’s this big line of people waiting for the author to sign the book. Or there are headlines in newspapers about how the author hit the New York Times Bestseller’s list or is having a movie made off their book or is winning some award. The author is carefree and has it all together. The money is pouring in while they live in this big house with a big yard in the country somewhere.
Not all movies portray this, but enough of them do so that when I started publishing my books, my uncles were shocked when I told them my life wasn’t like what I described above.
Here’s what it’s really like:
The other day I went to my accountant (because filing taxes on my own would be huge nightmare with all the forms I need to fill out), and after paying about 47% my income (which is my book sales), I still owe at least $1000 in taxes. I pay federal and state taxes. For those who don’t pay state taxes, the rate is 40%. So that means about half of everything I make goes right back to the government. I could not afford a home in the country or a little secluded cabin.
You see, I pay self-employment tax because I write books and publish them myself. This is something no one told me when I started. But yes, as a writer, you are self-employed, and you will be taxed at a higher tax rate than if you worked for someone else.
So financially, it’s not the way the myth would have you believe. I have a husband and four kids. I have a mortgage. I am debt free except the house (thankfully), but we do have to watch how we spend money. I’m not in a big house, nor do I drive expensive cars. I also don’t eat at fancy restaurants. My name isn’t headlined in newspapers everywhere, nor are they making movies based off my books.
When I write, it is quiet when the kids are in school, but I have to periodically stop writing to do laundry, clean the house, cook, run errands, track my expenses and income for tax purposes, or answer emails/phone/the door. I’m not lounging back while music is softly playing. As the wife and mother, I am expected to keep up the house and take care of the kids. Maybe men have it different, but that is what goes down in my home. And when the kids are home, I usually have to write over their noise (and four boys are loud and rough when they play). I even have two kids who literally climb the hallway walls. They argue and come to me about their grievances. They makes messes where I just cleaned, and ask me the same question I just answered half an hour ago.
You know how I look when I write? I’m in a t-shirt and jeans with my laptop. I’m not wearing fancy designer clothes. I’m not sipping from a drink either. I go in the kitchen to sip some water or tea or (if it’s been a hectic day) ginger ale because if I have a drink where I’m writing, a kid will knock that drink over and make a mess for me to clean up or (worse) hurt my computer. It’s not uncommon for a kid to whiz past me, knock into my chair, and spin me around. This actually happens a lot since my house is laid out in a way where they can run in a circle, and they typically do this for a good part of the night.
It’s not that I’m blowing off writing the books or that I don’t want to write them. It’s just that a lot of things happen, and it’s not as easy to get them done as it seems it would be. On top of that, things that are happening in the country and that happen to people I care about do impact my ability to concentrate on my work. I’ve published eight books this year. I usually average 6-7. So I worked hard enough where I feel okay with holding off on publishing anything else until next year. The important thing is I write the best book I possibly can because the worst thing I can do is rush a book so it sucks.