This week marks a real milestone for me. On the 29th March 2018, I took the huge step of leaving my day job and heading out into the world as a full-time writer. Was I scared? You bet your life, I was. Was I sad to be leaving? Well, I was sad to be leaving my colleagues, because I really liked them, and we had a great working relationship. The job itself had its highs and lows, but I definitely wouldn’t, I was certain, miss being tied to a routine, dragged away from my work-in-progress just when I was on a roll, to don a uniform and head out to work every day.
So, one year on, how has it worked out?
Firstly, I have to admit that I struggled in ways I’d never even considered. My main concern when I left the day job was that I wouldn’t be able to manage financially. I’d never even thought about other aspects of giving up paid employment. To be honest, walking out on a regular wage for an unreliable and uncertain income was such a big decision that it overrode all other concerns. It was only after I’d been a full-time writer for a few months and my nerves had settled that other problems started to surface.
I missed the routine: Yes, unbelievably, the very thing that I’d moaned about for so long was the thing I now craved. I’d frequently railed against having to be somewhere at a certain time, five days a week, but it turns out that when you don’t have to stick to that routine, it throws up some issues.
More Time Equals Fewer Words: I’d always had to time my writing carefully and stick to a schedule in order to meet my deadlines. I would get up early and start writing – fitting in as much work as I could before getting ready to leave the house. With no clock ticking to nudge me on, I discovered that my motivation began to flag. For a while there, I was writing less than I had when I’d been in employment.
I’m Free and I Can Go Anywhere: For the first couple of months, I admit I got quite carried away with the freedom. No more alarm clocks. No more watching the time on my computer screen. No more afternoons in a busy office, counting down the hours until six o’clock and home time. I could pick and choose my own work hours and if I wanted to leave the writing for a day and go out somewhere, I could! And I did. I was quite giddy with excitement and flitted here, there and everywhere. It took me a while to realise what I was doing and rein myself in again.
Depression: Going from a large office, filled with a lovely bunch of friendly, fun colleagues, to sitting on my own in a small room, staring at the computer screen, was much tougher than I’d imagined. I missed the gossip! I missed the laughter! I missed my friends! Sometimes, in my darker moments, I even missed the workload. For months, my spirits sank lower and lower and I struggled to cope. I got quite tearful and lost the urge to write at all for a few short – but terrifying – weeks.
So, where am I now?
Well, I’ve finally settled into some sort of routine again at last. I’ve tried to balance sitting down at that chair and working with getting out and about and seeing people, because I’ve discovered that the isolation is really bad for me. I need to talk to people! I’ve attended a social media marketing course, run by the talented Anita Chapman, and went to my very first Romantic Novelists’ Association Conference in Leeds, as well as a bloggers’ and writers’ lunch in York. Facebook has been wonderful for helping me feel connected to other people, particularly the closed page that my Write Romantics’ group set up, where we can chat freely and in private. I may not be able to see them in person as often as I’d like, but they’re always available if I need company, and that’s so reassuring.
And, as you can see from the picture, I’ve managed to churn out a fair bit of work in the year since I left the day job, so my productivity hasn’t suffered as much as I feared back in the dark days of last summer, when I honestly thought I’d never write another word. Since leaving the day job I’ve published four novels and am about to publish a fifth, have signed contracts for two further large-print books (which will be out this year) and two audio books, and changed the cover of Baxter’s Christmas Wish, in accordance with its status as the first in my new Home for Christmas series (novels connected by that simple theme).
I’ve produced a boxset of the Skimmerdale series and my “to-write” list is now up to fourteen books! I’m currently busy working on the first of those, my fifteenth novel. I’ve also set up my own publishing imprint, Green Ginger Publishing, while continuing to self-publish my shorter Bramblewick novels with the author collective, Fabrian Books, and have gone into partnership with my friend, Jessica Redland, as the Yorkshire Rose Writers. This was done with the intention of supporting each other, promoting each other’s work, blogging and, hopefully, introducing the other’s books to our respective readers.
My depression has lifted, and I’m feeling positive and happy. I still keep in touch with some of my old workmates, which I’m really glad about, and I’ve made new friends through my writing. My anxiety has mostly gone, and I love having the freedom to work when I choose and take the day off if I need it. It’s also wonderful to be able to book a dental or doctor’s appointment, or get my hair done, without thinking “How am I going to fit that in around work?”
Would I change anything?
If I could borrow The Doctor’s Tardis, I’d go back and tell myself not to worry, not to get depressed, and to enjoy my new-found freedom, because everything will be all right. Being self-employed is scary, and writing is a precarious profession, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I love it and feel so lucky that it’s my job. I honestly am blessed, and I try always to remember that, even at my lowest moments.
I’m now heading into my second year of self-employment and I can’t wait to get on with the books I have planned. I’m currently looking at ways to expand my readership and further my career, because I’m in this for the long haul and there’s no way I can rest on my laurels, but that’s exciting, too! I have trips away scheduled, events in my Filofax (get me!) and loads to look forward to.
The only thing I have to address now is my mum’s belief that I’ve retired! That may take a little longer …
Have a great week.