Who Said Writing is Free?: Spending time and money on scribbles

In one way writing is a pretty cheap thing to do; you just need a pencil and some paper, or even the ground and a stick. Of course things soon get pretty fancy; there’s nice journals, special pens, word processing programs, safe storage methods, then desks, offices, a room of one’s own. You know how it is. But then there’s time too. If time is money, then writing is really expensive. But it’s worth it. I’ve tried not writing before, to put a stop to all the madness, but my inner-writer’s voice was louder than my inner-critic, so it’s simply something I have to do. Anyway, I thought I’d share how I’ve spent my time and money on writing in 2018.

The three biggest things I’ve spent actual money on this year are a domain name, ink, and membership of a professional writing group. The domain name was a briefly troublesome moment. First of all I bought it from an American site, but it never showed up, so I had to cancel it, then I simply bought it through my website provider. Some people will recommend one thing, some the other. I tried both and the second one worked for me. So my advice would be, if in doubt, try both. I love my domain name. It’s money well spent.

Another essential was printer ink. My ex-partner used up the last of my printer ink and said she would buy some more, but that never happened (isn’t that always the case). So finally, after struggling with editing on screen for a few stubborn months, I just bought it myself. I actually bought a few cartridges and also a refill pack, so soon I may get covered in ink, but again, it’s all worth it. My favourite way to edit is to scribble on a hardcopy version, then type it up (and repeat). Again money very well spent. The wee moral of the story- don’t let people use up all your ink.

As for the membership of a professional writing group, along with the meetings there’s newsletters, Facebook page, connections, competitions and a conference. Due to lots of clashes (friends’ weddings, birthdays and me being ill), I’ve only went to one meeting in the whole year, which is pretty crap, but that’s just what’s happened. Still, being part of it has been really useful. Along with everything else, it made me think about who I am as a writer in a very positive and confident way. Join one, try it.

So moneywise, it’s not been so bad. Of course you could add buying books into the cost of writing. Reading is essential for writing, so obviously these are so essential that I don’t really think of them as expenses. Buying books is like buying clothes. It has to be done (although I definitely spend more on books than clothes). There’s nothing like a new book. I borrow a lot from the library too, but some books just need to come and live with me, forever.

Other than spending actual cash (or moving numbers around in my virtual bank balance), I’ve focused hard and spent a lot of time on my writing this year.

I run a monthly writing challenge, which keeps me on track with creating new drafts and story ideas, but I’ve found this website has been very time-intensive. The main reason for the time-drain was because I was getting to know what I wanted to write. I wasn’t quite sure what aspects of me to present (after all we’re all multi-dimensional creatures) and that took a lot of thinking and drafting, throwing drafts in the bin, and then re-writing, editing, sighing, re-writing and so on. Finally I decided to just be myself. It’s so much easier. If you meet me in real life, what I write on here really is kind of things I go on about. Plus, I work at an art college, so the world of creativity is something I discuss a lot.

Another thing I did that spent time on, that took absolutely ages, was to set up a database of my stories. I created an Excel file which records all my stories. I’ve gathered each title, filename, word count, status of the work (i.e. done/WIP), whether it’s been shared/had feedback, and another sheet which lists stories I’ve sent out- which version/filename, where. and result. A totally useful document. Collating the information made me really look at what needed a little bit more work, what needed a lot more work, and what was complete. After feedback or rejection letters I review that story again, and when I skim through an older piece, I always find something to tweak. So I had multiple files of each document. Creating this list of filenames and changes has been great for this too. Plus, now I make sure I save each version with this information in the filename and header too, just to keep it all consistent and sane. When I’m checking open submission sites, I can quickly check genre, word count, etc. and match it all up, rather than having to trawl through files and files of work every time. The ultimate added bonus of this new system is it has made me confident that I really am doing what I set out to do, which is to work on building a decent body of work for each of my favourite genres.

The only other thing that cost me heaps of extra time and money this year was learning to drive. It used time, money and lots of brain power- learning parallel parking and the likes. But, like the other things, putting so much effort into establishing these things last year means this year I’ll have more time to actually make stories up, because, after all, that’s my favourite thing.

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