Your Obligations to Yourself

Anyone who writes books knows it’s not a sprint, but a journey. Here are some tips for staying on the path:

Allow Yourself Time

No matter where you are in your career, allow yourself time to write. Making time may be especially hard before you start seeing income from your work if for no other reason, because someone paying you to write is a form of validation. But the more you persist, the greater your chances are for success.

Take Yourself Seriously

If you’re still at the stage where your writing is a hobby, that’s fine. It’s even a natural part of the process. However, this is one hobby that you must treat as a job if you want it to blossom into a career. Once you’ve allowed yourself the time to write, stick to it. If the reason for not writing wouldn’t hold up with your supervisor at a traditional job, then don’t let that reason excuse yourself.

Commit to the Relationships You Need

You’d make friends at a traditional office, right? Spend some of your time forming meaningful friendships in our industry. This is one instance where social media is a great thing!

Decide on a Budget

Being self-employed has its freedoms but it also means a company won’t cover expenses such as conferences and office supplies. You don’t have to be wealthy to write, nor is it imperative for you to go to conferences to be published. But do go through the process of deciding how much you can spend, and where best to spend your money to further your career. This is one place where an agent can advise.

Ask Your Tax Advisor

Transitioning to a new tax situation can be tricky. I recommend consulting a professional at least one or two years to help you learn how to pay taxes as a self-employed person.

Call Yourself a Writer

Putting a label on yourself is the scariest part. However, who will take you seriously as a writer if you never call yourself one? Soon, the label will feel natural – and wonderful.


Your turn:

What advice can you offer writers?

What commitments have you made to yourself as an author?

51 Responses to Your Obligations to Yourself

  1. Avatar
    J.D. WIninger April 12, 2018 at 5:11 am #

    Great post ma’am. As it turns out, I made a career out of writing for business. In semi-retirement, I know write for God’s glory. The one tip I would offer any new writer is to “Keep your day job.” The time will come that you can earn a living from your writing. Until that time, remember you need to keep the lights on, keep the fridge full, and keep your life moving forward. The best investments is learning to write professionally. Hobby-writing is something you can always do, and should, but it seldom pays the bills.

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    Tracey Dyck April 12, 2018 at 5:16 am #

    “If the reason for not writing wouldn’t hold up with your supervisor at a traditional job, then don’t let that reason excuse yourself.” Ouch, that’s a good one! I’m in a season that doesn’t allow much time for writing, but as soon as college lets out for the summer, I’m jumping right in!

    Taxes for a self-employed person is something I’ve wondered about. Especially since as a Canadian, there will be extra hoops to jump through in order to sell books in the United States. I believe I need to file for a foreign tax number, but beyond that, I have no idea!

    Great post, Tamela!

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      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:17 am #

      So glad I could help! Praying for you as you navigate the jumble of forms and numbers, too!

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        Tracey Dyck April 12, 2018 at 7:16 pm #

        Thank you kindly! I filed for a foreign income tax number years ago (as an embarrassingly naive fifteen- or sixteen-year-old convinced she was ready to publish), but never used it. I’ll probably have to file for a new one at some point. 🙂

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    Loretta Eidson April 12, 2018 at 5:46 am #

    I needed these reminders, Tamela. I think another important tip for writers is to hold yourself accountable to the goals or deadlines you set for yourself, and I’m pointing at myself when I say this. When you complete one project, start another right away. Don’t slip into the wait-and-see attitude. Keep the momentum and keep writing.

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    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 12, 2018 at 6:03 am #

    Care for yourself, and you have two strong arms to push yourself up when you fall.

    Care for others, and many arms will lift you in love when your strength is gone.

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    Rebekah Love Dorris April 12, 2018 at 6:13 am #

    Great advice — thanks!

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    Sami A. Abrams April 12, 2018 at 6:22 am #

    I’m discovering that relationships are huge in this business, and I’m enjoying every minute of building them. I’ve met some amazing people at conferences. A lot of these will be lifelong friends. I love the support and encouragement we give each other, whether it be with our writing or personal lives.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:18 am #

      Love this, Sami! We all start off with common goals and missions, yet each unique personality makes our journey all the more enjoyable and interesting!

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    Karen Sargent April 12, 2018 at 6:33 am #

    Decide on a budget…UGH! I was shocked when I added up my 2017 expenses for tax purposes. Most of it was for marketing, but I also have a hard time resisting books on writer’s craft that are highly recommended by authors, as well as titles that receive a lot of book love from the bloggers I follow. As for “call yourself a writer,” I still struggle with impostor syndrome. Michelle Cox was mentoring some new writers at an AWSA conference. When I shared my insecurities with her, she pointed a finger at me and found her best momma tough-love voice and said, “Don’t ever say that again. You ARE a writer.” She made me cry (sheesh…emotional writers!). 🙂 So…I try to remember that…and as you said, the label feels more comfortable…most of the time. 🙂 I think this is the area where I’d encourage new writers the most because it helps with confidence, and confidence is a commodity in an industry that requires such a thick skin and perseverance. Thanks for the good advice, Tamela!

    • Avatar
      Sami A. Abrams April 12, 2018 at 6:38 am #

      I completely agree with your confidence statement. I acquired the thick skin fairly quickly, but I struggle with confidence constantly.

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        Karen Sargent April 12, 2018 at 8:05 am #

        Sami, I feel more confident calling myself a writer when I’m the only writer in the room. LOL When I’m in a room full of writers…not so much! I feel like “the real writers” can see right through me. But the good thing is I’ve heard so many writers express the same struggle–even some who’ve published several books–so I guess that makes us normal. 🙂 (This is me imitating Michelle’s momma tough-love voice: You ARE a writer.) 🙂

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      Amanda April 12, 2018 at 6:42 am #

      Same here with confidence! As a professional musician, I’ve got practice handling criticism and rejection, but making the mental space to call myself both a musician and a writer has been so difficult!

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        Karen Sargent April 12, 2018 at 8:07 am #

        Oh, Amanda. That’s two identity crises! I’ll pray for you 🙂 (even though I’m jealous of your musical talent…in all the best ways.)

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:20 am #

      I can see Michelle now talking to you. She’s great!

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    Amanda April 12, 2018 at 6:39 am #

    For years, my kids’ nap time has been my writing time. Often, that’s the only time I get, but I’ve stuck to it and am now reaping the rewards. Even if they don’t nap and all I get is 15 minutes, that’s 15 minutes closer to a finished manuscript!

    Along those same lines, I heard somewhere the advice to touch the story every day. Even if all you do is write one sentence, a sentence that gets cut the next day, I’ve found I stay connected to story world. Slow momentum is still momentum.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:21 am #

      Excellent advice, Amanda! My eldest daughter was an infant when I started writing articles for publication and I’ve been there!

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    Jennifer Henn April 12, 2018 at 7:23 am #

    I’ve learned, I must leave the house. Trying to convince myself that I can work with people constantly coming and going delayed me finding a solution. Now that it’s warm again, I can drive my car to a quiet spot and get work done.

    • Avatar
      Karen Sargent April 12, 2018 at 8:12 am #

      Jennifer, I agree. There are too many distractions at home. My problem with writing in public is I live in a small town where I’ve been teaching 24 years. If I go to the coffee shop or library, people won’t leave me alone. 🙂 (And I’m easily tempted to visit instead of write!) My best writing hours are early morning before the family wakes. Somehow I transformed from a night owl to a morning person when I hit middle age.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:21 am #

      I remember one writer saying she would check into a hotel room to write alone when under a tight deadline.

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        Sarah Jane April 16, 2018 at 3:10 pm #

        Hi Tamela, really enjoyed your post and can relate 100%. I agree that that is a good idea, otherwise it’s completely impossible to get that uninterrupted time.

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    Rebekah Millet April 12, 2018 at 7:51 am #

    Thank you for this post! I nodded my head right along with each point. Especially creating relationships with others in the industry. I have a close “tribe” of Christian writers. The encouragement and help we provide each other is invaluable. Outside of that circle, so many wonderful connections and friends are made possible because of social media. It keeps this writing gig from being a lonely place.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:22 am #

      I’ll have to say, I’m a fan of social media, even though, like everything else, it isn’t perfect!

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    Norma Brumbaugh April 12, 2018 at 8:31 am #

    This post makes me stop and think about my writing journey. I was clueless at first. Then I became a student again intent on learning all I could. Following blogs like this one are part of my daily routine and education. Good for you for including the budget paragraph. Caution and selectivity are required in this business. Money is easily spent on products and services that are touted as the next best thing. I try to buy only what I know I will use and have the time to learn, which includes online coursework. One of the side benefits is you meet a lot of interesting people and make caring friendships.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:25 am #

      Good thoughts, Norma. I probably should have included the “time” factor there as well. Sometimes I find I have to turn down excellent opportunities, be they trips, books, or cool apps, to make room for life!

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    Cathy April 12, 2018 at 8:56 am #

    This made me cry a bit today.

    Thank you.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:25 am #

      Awww! Thank you.

    • Avatar
      Norma Brumbaugh April 12, 2018 at 10:47 am #

      (Cathy) Here’s a hug to you, just in case that was a bewildered or sad cry. I know I’ve had plenty of them. Blessings your way, Norma

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    Katie Powner April 12, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    This was supposed to be the year I started calling myself a writer, but it’s been more difficult than I expected. Thanks for reminding me how important it is.

    Another piece of advice I would give is to not take yourself too seriously. Yes, you should be serious about your career and be professional and all that, but at the end of the day, you can’t put too much pressure on yourself. You have to be able to look back at a terrible paragraph or blog post or chapter and laugh at it and know it’s not the end of the world. No one can write perfect sentences every time.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 12, 2018 at 9:26 am #

      Indeed, life goes on, and when you show you’re a human, people’s hearts tend to melt.

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      Peggy Booher April 13, 2018 at 6:48 pm #

      Thanks for the advice not to take myself so seriously, and the reminder that the world’s not going to end if my writing isn’t good.

  14. Avatar
    Lynda Boucher April 12, 2018 at 9:06 am #

    Great post! This post and all the comments have channeled my thoughts. I have a note on my writing desk that says, “I am a writer!” It’s a tip I picked up along the way, and a good reminder when that “imposter” sits on my shoulder.

  15. Avatar
    Joey Rudder April 12, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    Thank you, Tamela. I really needed this today. Blessings to you! 🙂

  16. Avatar
    Carol Ashby April 12, 2018 at 10:59 am #

    Follow writers’ blogs faithfully to learn craft and business and especially to meet fellow writers who are serious about their work.

    I met my super critique partner and a kindred spirit for discussing business aspects. There’s nothing better than having a writer friend and prayer partner, and I met both right here.

    • Avatar
      Tamela Hancock Murray April 13, 2018 at 4:19 am #

      Wow, that is wonderful! I had no idea!

      I really do feel a sense of community here. So grateful for all of you!

  17. Avatar
    Patti Jo Moore April 12, 2018 at 11:39 am #

    Excellent post, Tamela – – thank you.
    I hope to see you at ACFW in September! 🙂
    And on a totally different note, I wish I could share my gorgeous Georgia Springtime weather with everyone today – – it’s perfect, and I keep thanking the Lord!

  18. Avatar
    Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D April 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    Tamela, my advice is to just “do it,” as the commercials say. I take time to exercise, do Bible study, and work at a paying job all while balancing home and family responsibilities, so I owe it to myself to see this as a business that I just haven’t gotten paid for yet and write!
    Thanks for the superb advice, Tamela.

  19. Avatar
    Melissa Henderson April 12, 2018 at 4:32 pm #

    This is a truly important message. Thank you Tamela. 🙂

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    Jennifer Haynie April 12, 2018 at 5:47 pm #


    Great post for writers at any stage. Advice: Working full time and writing as a serious writer is very demanding. Pace yourself and make sure you have a work/life balance that is good for you in your current situation.

    Commitment: I will spend a full evening a week and at least some of the weekend writing.

  21. Avatar
    Sharron Cosby April 13, 2018 at 10:19 am #

    I almost choked on the words, “I’m a writer,” as I exchanged casual conversation with an acquaintance. At the time I was published, but couldn’t find the courage to label myself.

    With a few more successes in my credit list, I confidently declare, “I’m a writer.”

    Thanks for the tips.

  22. Avatar
    Peggy Booher April 13, 2018 at 6:44 pm #


    A few years ago a magazine published a devotional I submitted. Even after that, I found it hard to call myself a “writer”. (I felt as though someone was going to say,” You, a writer?! Yeah, right!”) But I decided to practice calling myself a writer, and now it’s easier. I have a blog, follow some writers, some writers follow me, and I learn from blogs such as this one and from online courses.

    Being a writer enables me to talk about something other people find interesting. My day job has nothing to do with writing and very little with creativity, so when I talk about writing, it gets people’s minds off of the problems at work.

    Being a writer also helps me. I don’t carry work problems home to the degree that I used to do. Now, I think about subjects for blog posts, appropriate photos for the posts, and the short story I’m working on.

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