I can’t do this forever.
It’s something I’ve recently realized: Because of the trajectory of my depression, I won’t likely be able to make it to retirement as a pastor. I could be very wrong about that, of course, and it’s not something that I need to act on now at all. It’s more just me coming to terms with the idea of doing something different.
What’s that something different I could do?
Oh, hey! Could I transition into being a full-time writer?
OK, stop laughing. I’m serious here.
You about done?
All right. So, is it possible that if/when I step away from the ministry in, say, ten or twenty years, I could write full time?
Oh, and make enough to survive. Let’s include that little caveat.
If I quit ministry now (which is not something I’m considering, but let’s pretend) – if I quit ministry now, I would utterly fail as an income-producing writer. I don’t have near enough writing credits to my name, and what’s more, I don’t think I have enough skill and discipline to produce enough work at enough quality to produce enough pay.
But I’m not looking at quitting today, am I?
Jon Acuff has a wonderful book entitled Quitter. In this book, he encourages people to continue in jobs that they don’t enjoy while honing their craft, until their craft can support them.
Applied to where I’m at now: Keep pursuing ministry while also working on my skills as a writer. Keep submitting stories for publication. Keep learning the industry and the markets. And if/when it’s time to step away from ministry… see where I’m at as a writer.
So what does that mean for me today?
- I need to keep writing. I hadn’t been writing for a while. This last week I’ve gotten back to it.
- I need to not just write, but pay attention to the craft. I need not just increased output, but increased quality. That may mean joining a writers’ group in person or online.
- I need to also explore the markets. Writing for writing’s sake is still good, but if I’m aiming to get an income, I need to see what sells – and write towards it.
- I need to write things outside my “comfort zone,” for genre, length, purpose…
- I need to submit writing for publication. Thankfully, that’s something I’ve been doing.
- I need to actually, you know, sell something. Thankfully, I’ve also got a start on that… but more on that soon!
That’s a heck of a list, really. Somewhat daunting.
But spread out over ten to twenty years? Very doable. The only thing I don’t have control over is what sells. I can work on my craft. I can explore the markets. I can submit writing.
And in ten to twenty years? Who knows? Maybe the entire world will turn to used books and no author will be able to break in, because there is no market. Maybe I’ll already be selling enough to reasonably make the jump to full-time writing. Maybe I won’t sell a single thing and I wind up a fishmonger. (I don’t even know how to mong fish!)
How about you? Is there a craft you’re trying to hone to spend more time on it? Is there a job you’re trying to escape? (And for clarity’s sake – I love being a pastor. I’m not looking to escape my profession; I’m simply recognizing my health may not allow me to continue in it.) What steps do you need to take to focus on your craft?
And what’s keeping you from pursuing those steps?