“Pay yourself first,” was the solid advice I was given with business book keeping: and face it, writing is a business, even if you work at it recreationally. If the IRS wants a share, it’s not necessarily a carefree hobby any longer…
It is not the size of my royalty cheques that keep me writing. Please, hold my hand while I tell you the story of banking my very first ever royalty cheque from the almighty Amazon. A Hallmark, Kodak, landmark moment! (Not quite…)
I was tired. I had another headache. I had my husband double-check the numbers on the stub to ensure Amazon got it right before I banked it. Then I had a frustrating twenty minute wait while a very young customer service representative with chipped nail polish, unkept hair and no sense of organisation, danced around to the tune on the piped music and ran from desk to desk, attempting to work out what to do with an international cheque. (Yes, professionalism is dead.)
The grand prize for this? 70% culled off my takings as I am in Australia, not the States; plus another 5% taken off by the United States Internal Revenue Service (though it was worth the four month fight with Amazon, or that would have been 30%); $7 lost in the exchange rate and the standard $15 international cheque lodgement fee. (I just checked my account and the National Australia Bank just slapped me with an additional fee for spending that time on their “very fine” premises rather than netbanking a physical cheque!) I looked at the receipt and saw how little of the amount I got to keep and wanted to cry. I make more money selling a handful of writing course CD-Roms, than I did from pushing 1500 books. I went to text my long-suffering husband for comfort… to find my phone battery had run out!
Pay yourself first. Pay myself with what? If I made 5c an hour for all the work I had put into writing, editing, formatting and promoting those books, I’d still be solidly in the red. I know that the amount adds up over time and makes it worthwhile… but on a first cheque, which I should have been exited about, it stunk!
So how do you pay yourself first when the money isn’t there? You do it by placing value on what you do and how it makes you feel about yourself. This is one instance when looking for outside approval is not going to do anything to encourage you. You pay yourself in personal satisfaction. I wrote those books, which I thought I’d never have the time to do. Other work and lack of courage had always gotten in the way of becoming a published author. In overcoming those hurdles, I have achieved a dream.
When I look back, it has never been money or recognition that has motivated me to write. I started writing when I was all of nine and my sister bought me a diary. I have been hooked on getting my thoughts down ever since. These days, I just share it with other people. One day I will probably say “enough” to business and will exchange my keyboard for my bunny slippers and Star Trek re-runs. Even then, I will always find the time to write.
Writing has to be for me first. It has to be what I want to do. It has to be its own reward. Chasing financial success works for a very few, but being true to yourself works for all.
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