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Posts tagged ‘money’

How I Feel About Getting a MA in Writing

I read an article today where someone racked up $100,000 getting their MFA. I couldn’t believe it! That’s a lot of money to study the arts. The author rationalized that they would be able to get a teaching job at a college and could then pay the money back. But $100,000 is still a lot of money and they will most likely take a good chunk of their lives. It’s like having a mortgage.

I can’t be too mad at them. I ran up a good amount of debt getting my MA, although it was around $12,000 instead. Still debt is debt. I paid a lot of money for something that wouldn’t necessarily lead to a higher paying job, or even publication.

Next month it will be four years since I graduated. I’ve been thinking a lot about whether my degree was worth it. I think it was because of where I am now. But I do have some thoughts about my experience.

Pick a program that will work for you. When I made the decision to go, it was during the Great Recession. After seeing people losing their homes and being out of work so long, I knew I would be a fool to quit my full-time job for school. So I looked for a part time programs and low residency. The school also had to be okay with me writing my speculative literature. No sense in going to a school that would look down on the work I would produce.

Be sure of your “why”. Ask yourself why you are doing this. Is it to get published? Make more money? Better think twice. I went because I wanted to know more writers and to get better at my craft. That’s it, nothing more. If the program didn’t do that for me, I would be in trouble. Luckily I met great people, whom I am still friends with today. I also grew as a story teller and became more confident in myself as a writer. You are investing a lot of time and money in this. Have a good why.

Be financially prepared. I’m not here to say whether student loans are good or bad. All I know is you should go in with your eyes wide open. I saved for a year before I even applied to grad school. Things went off the rails when I got to my last few classes. I had to take a pay cut and some unexpected furloughs took a toll on my bank account. When it came time to pay for my last few classes, I pulled out my credit card and charged it. The card’s interest rate was the same as Navient was offering and I didn’t want to get into the position of owing the money (Student loans don’t get discharged in bankruptcy court, but credit card debt does.) if something bad happened. I knew it would take me a couple of years to pay it off (It did.) But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle.

Overall, my experience was good. When I started the program, creatively, I was at a low point. Investing time and money into myself and my passion was one of the best decisions I made. It pulled me out of a semi-depression and gave me something to work toward. Sometimes I’m amazed I did so much: went to school, held a full-time job, and was able to have some sort of life. As I said, I grew as a writer and met some wonderful people. I had debt, but I was able to pay it off in a reasonable amount of time.

MA and MFA are a lot of work and may not lead to fame and riches. For some it may be wrong, leading to lots of debt and stress, but for others, it may change their lives. Only you can answer whether it was/will be worth it.

Should I Submit to Non-Paying Markets?

This is a dilemma many writers have. Should you only submit to places that pay, or do you widen your search to everywhere no matter if they pay or not?

My stance for the past few years has been to submit only to places that pay. My initial publications were at places that didn’t offer payment, but now that I have a few publication credits, I’ve only been focused on paying markets. Problem is, I think I may be missing out. Am I limiting myself by only going for markets that pay? Or is it a disservice to myself and my work by going for markets no matter if they pay or not?

I see the refrain of many successful writers. Never work for free. Money should flow toward the writer.

But a lot of writers feel that when you first start out, and you don’t have any credits, you should submit anywhere. You don’t have the luxury of being picky. You submit everywhere that is appropriate for your work whether they pay or not. Once you have a few pieces out, build a following, and get some experience, then you can start submitting to the big leagues.

Then, I’ve read some writers that say start at the top paying markets and then work your way down. Swing for the fences first and when those markets are exhausted, you move down the list.

And then there are writers who say the only places you should be submitting are ones that pay. Anything else is a waste of time. I don’t necessarily agree with this notion. There are a few places I really like and would love to be published in print (like Conjunctions). Also I think that if you are getting something you believe is beneficial to your career from the publication(maybe lots of eyes on the piece, or listed on Amazon with other writers, or for charity), then it may be worth it to submit.

For now, I’m in the second camp. I submit my stories to the best places first. Once they get rejected, I move on to the second rung journals, and so forth. This way, if a story gets published I don’t have the regret of saying, “Maybe I should’ve submitted to ______ first.” There is a lot more competition for the higher paid places, but moving away from those, I’ve noticed there are more places that I thought that pay semi-pro rates (.03-.05 cents/word) or token payments. Nobody is getting rich, but still feels good to get fifty bucks or so for a story.

I guess there is no one way to get it right. Maybe some of the amazing, non-paying markets offer great opportunities that I am missing. However, I can’t get over the fact that I want to be paid. I don’t work at my day job for free, so why would I be okay with my writing career? And other writers may disagree and build an amazing career build on lot of non-paying credits. Each writer has to make the best decision for themselves.

I may revisit my feelings about this in a few years to see if my strategy worked or not. I’m sticking to my plan and working hard to make all my stories successful.

Two Years – Still Consumer Debt Free

About two years ago, I paid off the last of my graduate school bills. I got my Masters in May 2015 and for two years I sacrificed and worked to pay the degree off. It was tough, but I had paid off debt before (my undergrad degree and my car), so I knew I could do it.

Two years later, I’m still consumer debt free. I do have a mortgage, so I don’t consider myself totally out of debt. It hasn’t been hard, I love being debt free. There is no part of me that wants to go out and charge up my cards, or make any other foolish money decisions.


Because of the freedom I have now. I can spend my money on the now (regular monthly bills) and the future (savings & retirement), instead of the past.

But paying off debt also gave me something else. It reminded me that doing something long-term, eventually pays off. I had forgotten about that side effect.

Writing can sometimes be lonely and isolating. But sticking with a long-term project like a novel, or a collection of stories will eventually pay off. For me, just knowing that I did something empowers me. I’ve written novels before and they didn’t sell. No one wanted them. However, knowing that I could do it gave me the confidence to write more. Sooner or later, I’m going to write a novel that sells.

2017 was slow. How about 2018???

The new year has started and I’m feeling like I need to get down to work. Although a lot of progress was made in 2017, my writing was not one of those things. If anything, I feel like a took a step back. I don’t think I finished one piece last year. I did write some, but I didn’t hit any of my goals. So this year, I have to pick up the pace. I’m aiming to finish my first draft of my book by the end of April.

Yup. You read that right.

That is an aggressive goal, but I need it. I’m tired of have half-finished stories floating all around me (and in my head). I want some finished material! I may lose some sleep and be grouchy, but, dang it, stuff is gonna get done!

On a positive note, looks like this spring I will be house hunting. I’m excited and terrified at the same time. I might drive everyone crazy with my need to go and see open houses, relentlessly watch HGTV, and pay more attention to Zillow than conversations. Hopefully, they will forgive me. I worked hard last year and gave up a lot to get out of debt and save up money. I’m in a really good place financially now. Time to put that savings to work.

Also, I’m happy I was able to get another story accepted. I don’t know when it will be published, but for me, the important thing is that another one of my stories found a home. As writers, we write into the void, not knowing if anyone will see or care about our stories as much as we do. This particular story was written in 2013. That’s a long time to see a story find a home. I believed in it and am thrilled that I stuck it out.

If anything, 2017 taught me the value of investing in long-term goals. Not only can I achieve them, but they are worth it too. I first got the idea for my novel in 2014, so it’s time to wrap it up. No more stalling.

My other writing goals for 2018:

Write at least one blog post per month. (I slacked hard last year. I need to do better.)

Earn more money from my writing.

Submit more. (I’ve fallen off my 100 rejection goal. Maybe start over? Not sure yet, but definitely submit more this year.)

Happy 2018! I hope you are working on some awesome goals too! Let’s get things done this year.

The Power of Intentional Intensity

Here I am at the end of February and I’m almost debt free. Crazy to realize this, but I’m so close, I can almost feel it. A year ago, heck 6 months ago, I wouldn’t have believed it. It felt impossible. I remember day dreaming in August and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great if by my birthday all my debt was gone?” I was just dreaming then.

Now, I’m awake.

In June 2016, my debt was about $12, 700. Now I’m at $4,900 and it’ll get even lower in a week or so. (Once I get my next paycheck.) For anyone out there who is struggling, just know that it is possible. I didn’t win the lottery, or sell a kidney. I just worked, sold things, and sucked up my pride and moved in with my folks. After a bit of a shock of living together again, things are going well. Still, I’m itching to have my own place again. This time though, I’ll be an owner.

One drawback is my writing time. I just haven’t had a lot of it. My novel sits untouched these past few months. I have neglected it. Morning time to write is no longer available. My mother is an early riser, so by the time I get up, the house is alive with sounds. But like I said in August, if the old routine isn’t working – Change. I may end up carving out a weekend writing schedule and the rest of the week is devoted to publishing business stuff. I’ll try it. My work may take longer to get done, but I’d rather have something written than nothing at all.

I’ve seen how the small steps add up over time. I see it with my writing, getting my education, and paying off my debts. Slow and steady will make a difference. It’s a hard lesson to learn and I have had set backs. From getting furloughed at my job, to getting lots of rejections, sometimes I want what I want when I want it. And the universe usually pats me on the head and then knocks me around. I felt this the hardest last summer when I wanted to buy a house. The universe was not having that. Looks like it was right to stop me. This way is much better.

Went to AWP a few weeks ago. Gosh, it has been so long since I’ve gone to a writing conference. This one was HUGE and I only went for one day. My fellow writers and I sat through panels, walked the book fair and I saw plenty of other folks (even a few famous writers!!!). Sometimes it’s good to remind yourself that you are in a community and surround yourself with other like-minded people. I know it gave me a bit of a jolt to see so many of us in one place. The saying is true – Writing is a solitary act. Often we are so wrapped up in our own work, we forget to be part of a community too. Celebrate your fellow writers! Go to their readings. If you have the money, go to the conferences and book fairs. AWP energized me and reminded me that it not just about the work.

It’s about living in the world and creating work from those experiences.

Busy. Not much writing.

I wish I could say I’ve been hard at work writing, but real life sometimes has to take the priority. Moving, day job, and all the other things that get in the way of writing have been coming first. We all know how that goes. Sometimes you just don’t get to everything you want to do.

I have been looking over what I have done this year and I am glad I managed to finish a few short stories, start a few more, and make some progress on my novel. It’s better than nothing. While I won’t get anywhere the 500K word count I hoped for this year, I hope to try again next year. Also, I’m still submitting and keeping track.

This was the first year I made money as a fiction writer. Not much. A few bucks and I’ll take it!

After that achievement, I’m not going back. I’m only submitting to places that pay. No more of this exposure compensation. I understand why some people do it when you don’t have a single credit. But I’ve got a few now and I am ready to be more professional. My work is worth something and I should be compensated for it.

So now I’m only submitting to places that pay (including token payments) and trying to write 500K in one year are my goals (so far) for 2017. Wrapped up in those goals is to finish my novel and other unfinished stories. Not sure about my reading goals yet. But stay tuned.