What Was Your Laser Beam Moment?
I've been a professional writer for 21 years. That's a long time!
However, for the first 12 to 15 years of my career, I didn't make much money doing it, even though it was, in fact, my sole livelihood. I made just enough "scratch" to survive.
Sure, I had several book deals during those years--with a major New York publisher, nonetheless--yet I still struggled to get by. I could pay my lil condo mortgage (barely) and owned my cute blue Honda Civic outright. But the truth of the matter was I was not thriving. I couldn't travel the way I wanted to or buy myself nice things. I was the gal who almost always ordered water in the restaurant.
I was hiding and waiting for things to get better. If you had asked me what the problem was in those days, I would've named 99 circumstances and reasons for my setbacks and disappointments before doing the one thing that would've mattered:
Looking in the mirror.
It didn't feel good. I made a lot of comments about how I should bag the writing thing and go to law school. I considered trying my hand at teaching courses, or maybe giving presentations to schoolkids. For a long time, I took on extra shifts as a bartender (which probably improved my personality even as it hurt my income level). I even took a job in retail at one point because I didn't know what else to do. My writing just wasn't amounting to much.
You might be thinking, "Well, that's just how it is if you want to live as a creative. That's the price you pay. That's how it works."
The problem was not my choice to become a writer, thereby dooming myself to a low income. The problem was that for most of those 15 years, I was half in and half out.
I had not made the kind of commitment success requires of us.
I was a waffler. I was unfocused and pissed at the world.
Then, I had a child.
My back was against the WALL. I had no choice but to change the way I was being. Either I needed to find a way to earn some real money, or she would have less than I thought she needed in this world.
My thinking became crystal clear.
I suddenly realized, "I've been earning money as a writer for 15 freaking years. Who does that? Very few people. I am Laura Schaefer and I am DONE FAILING.
"I was the VALEDICTORIAN of my class for God's sake, and I am going to figure this OUT, once and for all."
I'm sure you can see what effect this kind of thinking had on my results. I had been a totally unfocused flickering 40 watt lightbulb and I turned myself into a FREAKING LASER BEAM. It wasn't about working more or harder. I've always worked more and hard.
It was about changing my essence completely.
I did it for my daughter.
I made a commitment.
Sometimes, having no safety net, no Plan B, and a small human depending on you in a strange new city is what it takes to grow up. From that launching pad, I've learned we rise to the level of our own self-knowledge.
This can take many forms.
On a basic level, self-knowledge means understanding and putting energy into our own skills, strengths, and competencies. In other words, finding a meaningful way to offer value to others in the marketplace via our talents, education, and natural abilities. This level is all about trying to figure out who we are and what we'll do that others need.
The next level is improving on *communicating our value* to others so we can consistently connect with those who can benefit from hiring us, collaborating with us, or commissioning our work. This communication can happen in person, via social media, with an intentional sales process, or simply by submitting our creative outputs to gatekeepers in the hopes of being recognized.
The third level involves addressing persistent thoughts or beliefs that may be holding us back. Here, it helps to look at our core wounds or early traumas that are now manifesting themselves in issues around trusting others and the universe (this is a big one for me), the idea of whether or not there will be *enough* (both in ourselves and in the world at large), scarcity versus abundance, inner worthiness apart from "doing," and fear versus faith in all areas.
This level also involves getting real about patterns of behavior that are not serving our long-term growth, such as quitting too quickly when the going gets tough, taking random or unfocused action in search of shortcuts, blaming, raging, prejudging, trying to do everything, oversharing, under-sharing, overserving, underserving, codependency, and avoiding tough conversations.
Finally, I believe making it as a creative business owner or solopreneur involves a fourth level: bringing all of it together with professional support...whether that's with a therapist (or series of therapists as the first one you meet is rarely the one), a coach or team of coaches, and eventually...with someone like me who can help you tell your story so others can learn from your unique insights and experiences, mistakes and colossal failures, and eventually, your wins and peace.
If you'd like to collaborate on a short ebook for your website or a full-length book, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd love to get to know you!