Yesterday, I wrote about my personal financial goals my first year as a paid writer and how that first year worked out for me. I encouraged you other budding writers out there to set thoughtful personal financial goals (it's okay if they are small!) and to make giving a part of your plan.
To recap: Year One, I published a book and a few magazine articles and had a few speaking engagements. I met my goals of tithing and buying Christmas gifts for my kids, covered all my book-business expenses (transportation, marketing, etc.), bought gas and groceries a few times when household funds ran low, and ended the year with about $200 in the bank. According to my economic philosophy, that was success.
Today, I want to continue Camille's Squirrelly Address on Financial Aspects of Being a Writer by telling you about Year Two in my writing-for-pay adventure. This part of my story may sound like somewhat of an upside-down tale, but for me, it has been an exciting journey.
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was challenged by a friend who lived a lifestyle of generous giving. She had lots of money at her disposal, so of course, she could give lots of it away. I admired her generosity and wondered: if I ever had the resources, could I follow her example?
We all know people who, no matter how much money they make, never seem to have enough. But my friend, unlike these other folks, consistently and deliberately practiced the discipline of living on only a fraction of her available income and of being content with that smaller portion. Her philosophy was not "How much more can I afford to buy/spend/live on if I have a bigger paycheck?" - but - "How much more can I give away to support Kingdom work/ministry?"
Just on the off chance that I might someday strike it rich, I asked my friend for advice on the discipline of giving. First, she encouraged me not to wait until I struck it rich, but to develop a habit of giving from whatever small portion I might be allotted. Her advice was something like this: "If you have a little, give a little. If you have a lot, give a lot. If you wait until you have 'extra' to give, if you give only out of what you have left over, you will never feel like you have enough and you will never give in a meaningful way. Give from the beginning, even if it's only a small amount."
Second, my friend encouraged me to research ministries I wanted to support, to invest in ministries with which I had a personal tie and with which I could maintain ongoing personal relationships.
Those conversations about deliberate giving happened several years ago, so I've had plenty of time to meditate on my friend's advice. When I published Book 1, I did not have dreams of Grand Income and Grand Giving. I had modest expectations and I set modest goals. God very graciously allowed me to realize those expectations and to meet those goals. Nothing big...I was taking baby steps. But still, I ended Year One excited about the year ahead.
Year Two, I published Book 2 and a few more articles, and I had a few speaking engagements. Maybe Year Two would be the year I made the Big Time? Maybe?! Just in case, I began researching ministries in which I might want to invest.
I continued to tithe. I set aside a little now and then for Christmas gifts for my kids. I started saving up to have my website (hopefully!) revamped by a professional. And, after quite a bit of research and prayer, I had a list of three ministries that I knew I wanted to support...when I was making more money, of course.
Half-way through Year Two, however, I had saved only a fraction of the amount budgeted for the website revamp, and I felt like Big Giving (or, in my case, Not-so-Big-But-Still-Very-Exciting Giving) was never going to be a reality.
I was selling books, but I felt like a hamster on a wheel. No matter how many books I sold, it would never amount to much: whatever money I earned would need to go right back into the book business, so that I could hopefully sell more books, so that I could spend more on marketing, so that I could sell more books, etc. I realized that there would never be any extra left over from my little writing enterprise to devote to things of eternal value.
I was enjoying writing. I was selling books. But I felt discouraged. I prayed for the three ministries I wanted to support financially, and I asked God week after week, "When will I be able to give?!!"
Well, after several frustrating weeks, God answered my prayer. He simply said, "Now."
No, book sales did not increase dramatically. No, I did not get an offer for a Tatum County movie contract. Rather, I simply remembered my friend's advice from years ago: "If you wait until you have 'extra' to give, if you give only out of what you have left over, you will never feel like you have enough and you will never give in a meaningful way." In waiting until I had 'enough left over' to give, I discovered the paradox that enough...never is.
The challenge I faced was not having enough to give, but caring enough to give out of what little I did have. God didn't give me a lot of money, and He wasn't calling me to be faithful with a lot of money. Rather, He gave me a little bit of income and then challenged me to be faithful with that little bit.
In a peculiar, round-a-bout way, I became aware of pressing needs of one of the particular ministries for which I had been praying and which I desired to one day support. Was this God urging me to step out in faith? If I committed to supporting this ministry, would I be able to stay faithful to that commitment? What if my book sales dropped? What would I do then?
I spent a day wrestling through these and other questions. Surely it was not time to expand giving yet, not on the little income trickling into my book account. But I came back over and over to one question: "If not now, when?"
I took a deep breath and stepped off the hamster wheel.
I wrote a letter to the ministry - the first one on my list - and explained my situation and that I wanted to commit to supporting their work with a certain amount each month. It wasn't a huge amount, but it seemed huge by my economic standards. I enclosed my first payment in the letter, and, with trembling hands, put the envelope in the mailbox.
I was more than a little scared. I was even more excited. Is this what it feels like, walking by faith?
After nervously mailing the letter, I sat down in the kitchen with my writing-business record books. I had enough money in the bank to meet this new financial commitment for several months (the website revamp could just wait), but then what? How could I be sure I would have the funds needed to continue to support this ministry?
If I wanted to honor my financial commitment, I needed to sell books, plain and simple. Marketing is not my favorite aspect of this business - I'd rather just write! But, with a new reason for wanting to sell books, I resolved that afternoon to try to schedule at least two book events each month. Book fairs, speaking engagements, book-signings - I needed to get out and pound the pavement!
And this is where the story of Year Two gets really interesting....
I already had two book events scheduled for July and one event for August. Before the end of the week, I was asked to speak at a second event in August and I received an out-of-the-blue invitation to address a civic organization in September. Then came an email asking me to give a writing workshop at an out-of-town library and the opportunity for an interview on a talk-radio program.
Since mailing that letter back on the first day of July, I have consistently had at least two book or speaking events each month - and, amazingly, most of these opportunities have come to me without my even looking for them!
Thankfully - hallelujah! - I have been able to consistently support a ministry that is dear to my heart.
At the end of Year Two of being a paid writer, I have around $200 in my book account, about the same as at the end of Year One. Doesn't look like I'm making much progress financially, does it?
But, I have met my goals: I have been able to support my awesome church through tithing, I'm wrapping gifts for each of my kids this Christmas, I bought groceries and gas a couple of times when household funds ran short, AND I have given to a ministry that I love in a way I wouldn't have thought possible only a year ago.
God has not given me a late model vehicle or a new wardrobe or a big movie deal, but He has given me something better: through my little writing business, He has given me an opportunity to be a blessing in some small way to someone else.
I am totally stoked! And I am super excited about Year Three!!!
3 weeks ago