So I find myself reading another book geared toward writers. The portion I just came to had to do with the hamster wheel syndrome. This syndrome is when you aim for a certain money goal, and once you reach it, you realize you’re stuck because no matter what marketing efforts you’re currently doing, you’re not making more money. All you’re doing is holding steady.
Since the goal is money, you’re in a panic because you want to make more. So what do you do? You run after a new shiny marketing tactic, and it works! Suddenly, you’re making more. Good. All things are set to go. So you run and run, and after a while, you reach another place where you’re stagnant. You’re not losing money, but you’re not gaining more, either. So you’re in the hamster wheel again, and you’re scrambling to find yet another marketing tactic that will earn you more money.
This is a cycle, and to sum it up, this is what it looks like:
After reading through a couple of pages of the author describing this cycle, I had to put the book down and hop on here to do a blog post. I’ve been through this stupid cycle. This led to a burnout so major that I lost all enjoyment for writing. Only looking back on things can I see this hamster wheel clearly. At the time, I didn’t realize the hamster wheel was the problem. It was never the books themselves that dimmed my enthusiasm for writing; it was the pursuit of more money that wiped that enthusiasm out.
I’m going to level with everyone reading this. The sad truth is that no matter how much money you make, it will NEVER be enough. You will always want more because the end goal is money.
Now I believe the author of this book I’m reading loves writing. This author is fun to read, and this author sounds like someone who is fun to be around in real life. So I’m not speaking of the author personally in this post.
I’m speaking about the pursuit of “more money, more more, more money” that is strong in the writing community. This author just outlined why the hamster wheel is so incredibly crappy. I could feel the frustration and fear this author is harboring. I don’t know if the author realizes how transparent those emotions were on the page, but that’s what this author is facing on a daily basis. Despite the awesome sales and acclaim this author receives, there’s always that underlying pursuit of “more”.
This cycle, left unchecked, will kill anyone’s joy in writing. You can keep going as long as you figure out that new shiny marketing tactic that takes you to the next level. Getting to the next level of more money does give you a boost of excitement that propels you to keep writing. But just how many new shiny marketing tactics can there possibly be out there? How fast can you possibly move to keep up with them?
I just don’t see how this can last for a lifetime. I really can’t. This is a hectic pace. I can see how this can be doable for a few years. Maybe it can even last for a decade. But I don’t see how anyone can keep up with this level of angst to earn more money long term while maintaining your passion for writing. Honestly, I think the faster you’re rushing to get books out to make more money, the sooner you’ll hit burnout.
Writing is a creative process. You can’t just MAKE a story idea come to you. You have to get inspired. Yes, you can buy plots. This is big in writing circles. I had no idea just how big this was until last year when I saw several posts on Facebook from writers who were out of ideas and needed plots. There is a market out there for people who want to create plots for writers and sell them. Writers can’t keep coming up with ideas if they never give their brains time to rest. Rapid release + rushing to make more money = little time to come up with new ideas. So if you’re good at creating plots and don’t want to write them, you might want to look into selling plots. The more detailed you can make these plots, the more you can charge.
Back to the post….
At the end of the day, just how much money do you need in order to be happy? I get wanting to pay your bills and make a living. That makes perfect sense. But do you really need a “six-figure income” in order to be happy? I’m not knocking people who make $100K+ income. That’s awesome. What I’m talking about, though, is happiness. Happiness isn’t something you can put a dollar amount on. It’s the “love” of money that I think is the problem. We love money so much that we’ve made it an idol we worship.
I’m not insensitive. I understand the pull money has. I felt it back in 2014-2017 when I hopped up in the hamster wheel. I get how fun “more and more” is. Money didn’t make me happy, though. If anything, the constant pursuit of it ended up making me miserable. That’s why I say that no matter how much you make, it will never satisfy you. I don’t care if you make millions. That isn’t going to magically make you happy.
If you want to be happy, you need to be content with where things are right now. Sure, have goals. I’m all for goals. But I prefer goals that are grounded in things that I can control. No author has control over how many people buy their books. You can lead them to your books, but it’s out of your hands as to whether they buy them or even read them. When you make your goals revolve around things you can’t control, you’ll end up frustrated if other people don’t fulfill them for you. If your goals are things you can control, you’ll feel a deep sense of satisfaction when you accomplish them. It’s all about what you choose to focus on.
The good news is you can choose whether or not you want to be in the hamster wheel. For me, I’ll never go back there again. I’m making way less money today than I used to, but I am happy and I love writing again. To me, the trade-off is worth it. But if the other path is one you want to pursue, more power to you.