When is it time to admit to yourself that you’ll never make a living as a fiction writer?

When should you abandon your lifelong dream?

When does the cost of pursuing that illusion become too high when the benefits are too few?

I ask myself these questions daily – sometimes more than daily.

I’m tired and discouraged.

Lately I’ve questioned why I invite the optional pressures into my already busy existence.

I live in a rural area where most of the available jobs pay little more than minimum wage. So in order to earn a (real) living, I have to drive 84 miles one way to get to my job. I work full time. So add the nearly 3-hours of commuting to my 8-hour day and my work day spans eleven hours.

Then there are the days I have to go to NYC for my job. On those days I leave my house at 4:30am and get home sometime between 8 and 9pm.

So my work days tend to be long. But then I add on the voluntary activities.

I get up most work mornings at 2:30am. WHY??? You ask. Well, I need to spend up to an hour doing my social media marketing activities and checking for emails from potential agents, and on an otherwise slow morning, editing my current manuscript-in-progress. By 3:30 I need to be on the road to go to the gym. Yes, exercise is optional, sort of. But not if you want to stay healthy and maintain a level of energy to sustain the other activities in a
busy life. And not if you like to challenge your body in marathons and half-marathons. Yes, those are optional. But without those goals, I’m not sure the pure health benefits would keep me exercising. I have to start work at 7:30am, but I try to be there by 6:30 to give myself another hour to work on writing-related “stuff.” By the time I get home at close to 6pm (or 8:30pm on NYC days), all I can do is suck down a quick dinner, pack my gym bag for the next day, and go to bed so I can get up and do it all over again the next day.
I can’t afford not to do this – I have bills that won’t go away just because I’m tired of the rat race.

Did I mention I’m turning 62 next week?

I’ve published one novel, Autumn Colors, through a small publisher (and then self-published when it went out of print). I’m still in the red on that one, since I had to do
all of my own promotion and buy my supply of books. I’ve so far sent queries for my second novel, Sentimental Journey, to nearly 20 agents. I’ve received about 15 rejections, and I’m assuming the rest are rejections without responses, since it’s been over 3 months. I keep reminding myself that lots of successful books were rejected multiple times before they hit it big. I recently heard that The Help was rejected 65 times, and we all know how that turned out. I keep going back to the manuscript to find the shortcomings that might be keeping it from producing a “yes” from an agent. This weekend I will spend most of the two days reworking parts of it in hopes of getting to that illusive “yes.”

This week I received word that Autumn Colors, which I submitted for the Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards, did not get so much as an honorable mention.

Did I mention I have a husband and we used to enjoy doing things together? But this obsession with making a success of writing has taken over what little free time I have, and I resent the intrusion of dinner invitations and other social activities that I used to enjoy.


When is it time to admit to yourself that you’ll never make a living as a fiction writer?

When should you abandon your lifelong dream?

When does the cost of pursuing that illusion become too high when the benefits are too few?


I haven’t reached 65 rejections yet. My husband hasn’t threatened to divorce me yet.

I’m tired, but that illusive butterfly seems just beyond my reach, and if I just try a little harder, a little longer, maybe this time…. “Maybe this time, I’ll be lucky,” as the song goes. “All the odds are – they’re in my favor…” “It’s gonna happen, happen sometime…” “Maybe this time I’ll win.”

So my answer this morning, as it has been for years now, is…not yet.

About Dawn Essegian Lajeunesse

I, like so many others, am a novelist struggling for recognition. My last three novels, THE EYES HAVE IT, IN HER MOTHER'S SHOES and STAR CATCHING, are available in e-book format through Amazon and other formats by request here or on my website. AUTUMN COLORS was my first novel and is still available through Amazon and B&N in multiple formats. My early writings are women's fiction, one also suitable for YA. My work-in-progress is a historical fiction about the Armenians who settled in Troy, NY in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Come visit me at my website:
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8 Responses to CROSSROADS

  1. Randall says:

    Wonderful but sad article. I really do hope you can reach success. Maybe then it could show us that there is hope for being published someday.


  2. Joe Iriarte says:

    I don’t know if it’s possible to make a living as a writer anymore. Of course I’d like to, but for now I’d settle for just getting paid anything for my work. I’m glad you’re not giving up yet. It sounds like your husband is pretty supportive. Good luck to you both on this journey!


    • mtnwriter77 says:

      Sad but true! Seems like any writer who didn’t make it big before the changes of the last few years has little chance of it now. Not impossible, but very slim. I, too, would settle at this point for just getting some kind of payment and having something coming in instead of always paying for the “privilege” of being called an author. But we do keep trying! Best of luck to you also!


  3. clarbojahn says:

    OH so sad!
    You do have it rough. I only wrote in my journal for years before my second career as writer. I was a registered nurse thirty five miles away and never worked only eight hours. More often ten. And then my husband died so I raised the kids by myself.

    I didn’t have a dream of being published till I wrote a Picture book “Annie’s Special Day.” I think the online conferences are easier on us as far as pitching. That’s where I pitched Annie and got the interest of two publishers only one really giving me a contract. It’s true that it has lead me to think I have something to offer.

    If I may give you some advice. And since you plea so sweetly for it. I would give my husband some of that precious free time. And sleep more. You need sleep for health as well as exercise. Your husband may not be around for ever and needs to know how much he means to you. I hope you take this the right way. As some one who lost her husband, I ask this for you. Prioritize your time. Once you retire you can write full time. And there is always the weekend. Once you get enough sleep you will be surprised how much you can get done on the weekend. Even Steven King used to write only on the weekend at one time.


    • mtnwriter77 says:

      Your advice about giving my husband some of my time is wise. I’ve written that into so much of my own writing, including my first novel and my posts, but I don’t follow my own inner wisdom. I’ve been working for 40+ years (also an RN, although last 10 years have been spent at a desk) and sometimes my weariness clouds my vision. Thanks for the reminder about priorities.


  4. Duckie says:

    I am gobsmacked in reading about your regime. I know that many people have long distances to commute to work but could not imagine it for myself. To get up at 2:30 am though is a form of self-torture; time to re-think!

    All of your aspirations are admirable and you are clearly a very self-disciplined person. I have various writing projects in the pipeline, but have put serious writing on hold for now. I am a sole parent and realise sadly that I could never hope to maintain my household on the pittance that I might earn. I am researching other allied options though that will generate some income in conjunction with writing. I am hanging out at work until I am 60 (now 58) with dreams of being able to quit work then. In reality, I know that it is probably unlikely. I need to peel back some of the other responsibilities and time-consuming activities that I have though so that writing can take on more of a dominant role. I am really pleased that I live a 20 minute bike-ride from work. It is quick and easy.

    I second the previous comment about reviewing your priorities and spending more time with your nearest and dearest. And stay in bed longer. Some more sleep would be so good.


    • mtnwriter77 says:

      Thanks – I agree, that I need to spend more time with my nearest and dearest AND get more sleep. I’ve been working in recent months on bringing more balance into my life. I’ve cut back on the extreme exercise routine without becoming a slug, and I’m re-learning how to relax and enjoy myself. Thanks for the encouragement – and I’ll hope that you’ll be able to retire as planned (although with this economy, that may need to be modified).


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