Hey readers, so today I’m happy to feature an excellent interview with fellow two-time Top Ten Blogger for Writers, Joanna Penn, from The Creative Penn!
In this interview we’ll be talking about a recent change Joanna has made in her life, and how this change has influenced her life and her writing in a positive way.
I wanted to do this interview with Joanna because her recent move so exemplifies the spirit of Courage 2 Create. She has taken the rare, courageous step of creating the kind of work she wants and the kind of life she wants.
Ollin: Last September, you gave up your job as an IT consultant to go full-time as an author-entrepreneur. What led you to making this decision?
Joanna: I’ve been working as a consultant for the last 13 years across Europe, New Zealand and Australia. It has been a brilliant life for the money and the travel but it never satisfied me.
Over the years, my creative side withered and almost died and I was increasingly angry and frustrated. I’m not an angry person by nature so that was a telling sign that something was really wrong.
I’ve been working at writing and my online business part-time for over three years and it was finally time to take the next step.
Ollin: What is an “author-entrepreneur” for those who don’t know?
Joanna: I make income from my book sales but also from online education e-courses, speaking and consulting. I have 2 novels right now, and 2 non-fiction books, and I have made between $200 – $1500 per month for the last year.
I have an established blog with online multi-media courses selling daily, I am a professional speaker and also a consultant to other indie authors. Altogether this model makes money and, over time, as I write more fiction, I can dial down the rest.
Ollin: What problems have you faced in making this huge life change?
Joanna: One of the big things for me has been adjusting to the financial change. Consulting is highly paid and so money was never a concern for me. Writing and blogging doesn’t really compare in terms of income.
The other thing was based on a routine of commuting and office life for the last 13 years. I am used to a specific workplace environment and without that structure I felt quite disconnected. So I now commute into the London Library for 3 or 4 days per week in order to work in a more structured environment surrounded by other people who are also working in writing or academia.
Ollin: Can independent authors actually make a living from writing in these changing publishing times?
Joanna: The simple answer is yes, and there is increasing evidence of this every day with indies being quite candid about their sales figures. Joe Konrath earned over $100,000 in the first 3 weeks of January. Of course, he’s in the top end of the scale but here’s a lovely interview with an author who earned over $5000 in December and was very happy about it. (If you’re interested in indie publishing, both those blogs are worth subscribing to.)
It seems to be clear that you need a number of books to make a decent living either going indie or traditional.
Ollin: Can you compare your quality of life before you become an author-entrepreneur to now? What’s changed? Is it what you dreamed it would be like? Or has reality sinked-in?
Joanna: I have just got back from a research trip for my third novel, Exodus, which will be about the Ark of the Covenant and ancient Egypt. I spent the day at the museum home of an eccentric British architect John Soane, who has the sarcophagus of Pharaoh Seti I in his basement. I then went to the British Museum to research mummification in their amazing collection. I had lunch with my husband in central London and I wrote reams of ideas in my notebook.
I can’t express how happy I am in this new life.
I am grateful every day I can live like this. I may not be able to go out for expensive meals all the time, or jet off somewhere exotic, but I am living a simpler life of creativity.
I’m so happy, Ollin, and I’m a different person from the angry, frustrated IT consultant I used to be.
I was very good at that job but I was unhappy. Every time I think I should return to IT in order to earn more money, I look at the amazing things that are starting to happen and I know I have to wait and keep creating. This is the life for me. Perhaps I will have to return to work part-time at some point but for now, I’m going to focus on making this life work.
Ollin: I’m curious: where do you think the courage comes from to live so boldly as you do? And do you think this kind of courage can be taught to others?
Joanna: I’m a self-help addict! I have been reading books and listening to empowerment audios for years now.
A book that made a huge difference to me was Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. The very first chapter says that you need to take responsibility for your life. Everything is a result of your own choices. The next chapter says you must decide where you want to get to, and then decide what you will give up to get there.
It’s not courage so much as determination.
The affirmation on my wall says I am a successful author. I have defined what that means to me and I will keep trying every day to progress towards that. Another great book is The Compound Effect, which teaches that every day you need to take a little step, you need to make small conscious choices in the direction of your goals and dreams, or they will never happen.
Ollin: Do you think taking risks, like the kinds you’ve taken, are worth taking in the end?
Joanna: I’m not a risk-taker by nature and I don’t think this decision is a risk. It might feel like one sometimes but the reality is that, even in this economy, I can go out and get another job if things get too tough. I’m not going to starve.
The bigger risk for me at aged 36 is that I return to IT contracting because it is the easier and more comfortable option and then I look at myself in another 10 years and realize I could have written lots more books in that time and achieved so much creatively.
Life is short; the risk is not to live it to our full potential.
Ollin: Should an author/writer be prepared when taking the kinds of risks you have taken (quitting a day job and following a dream)? Should they have a plan? Or should they just take a giant leap and see where they land?
You definitely have to have a plan and an income strategy. I know because I have tried to make this move before.
Back in 2000, I quit my London job and went traveling. I vowed never to work in IT again but eventually, the money ran out and I returned to it.
Fast forward to 2004, I had a house in New Zealand and a great job. Then I decided I was going to really write the book this time, so I resigned and sold my house (that’s a much bigger risk!) and sat without any inspiration for three months. I felt awful and I couldn’t write. So I went back to consulting again, my confidence dashed.
This time, I ended up writing my first books and blogging whilst doing a full-time job.
So definitely, definitely, do it in your spare time first. Know how you will pay the rent/mortgage and the bills before you give anything up otherwise you will end up returning to the safe option again.
Ollin: Finally, before we leave, I want to give you a chance to plug your new book. Can you tell us a little bit about the book and where we can go buy it?
I’m passionate about religious history, architecture, art and travel and I also love action movies! So I bring those aspects to my books–they have been described as “Dan Brown meets Lara Croft with a splash of Indiana Jones.”
The latest book is Prophecy, the 2nd in the ARKANE series. If you like an impending apocalypse with a race against time to stop a curse reaching mankind, you’ll enjoy the book. It has 16 reviews averaging 4.5 stars on Amazon right now and is $2.99.
It can be read as a stand-alone novel but the prequel, Pentecost, is only 99 cents on Kindle if you fancy trying it out.
Ollin: Thank you, Joanna. You’re an inspiration to us all.
Joanna: Thanks for having me Ollin!
Joanna Penn is the author of action-adventure thriller novels Pentecost and Prophecy, as well as a non-fiction book on career change. Joanna’s site TheCreativePenn.com helps people write, publish and market their books and has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2 years running. You can follow Joanna on twitter @thecreativepenn
Have you ever thought of making a radical transformation in your life in order to pursue a dream? Or, if you’ve ALREADY made a radical transformation in your life in order to pursue a dream, what was (or is) the experience like? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!
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