Novel Writer Discovers the Real Secret to Making a Living Writing
Suzanna Fitzgerald has never had a “real” job, choosing to be self-employed for passion and practical reasons. But building a writing business wasn’t easy — until she stumbled across the big secret that makes Barefoot Writing possible. Find out what she did from there and how she’s building a writing life to love.
Why did you switch from writing fantasy novels to Barefoot Writing?
My choice grew out of a passion and necessity. My passion for the written word existed even before I could read, when my mother read to me. It grew to a passion for writing when I realized at age nine that real people wrote books.
As I got older, I started getting migraine headaches that eventually became a 24/7 deal. It kept me from ever hoping to get a normal job, so I focused on my writing. I originally tried writing fantasy novels, but eventually realized that I didn’t know enough about marketing to really make a go of it.
After realizing that, I learned about copywriting, and it seemed like the best, most logical next step. Better yet, now that I’ve gotten some control over my migraines, I can enjoy the freedom and opportunity of my life as a writer.
Which type of copywriting is your favorite?
I love web writing. The constantly changing landscape is fascinating and challenging, so I never get bored. Given my background in fantasy novel writing, I also enjoy working in industries that are more creative in their base, like fashion and beauty, travel and hospitality, photography and more.
How do you stay on top of all your projects?
I like to get up really early, usually between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m. I’m an early bird, and these are my most productive hours. I always try to get the most challenging work done before 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. when everyone else gets up.
For tools I use Google Calendar, and I do best making a daily to-do list on Microsoft’s Sticky Notes.
Have you had any big writing wins so far?
My first big success was when I was seven years old and submitted a story about our hero dog to a children’s magazine. I won first place, $50 (unbelievable for a 7-year-old, right?). After that I won nothing, and made nothing, at my writing until I won the spec challenge at the 2017 AWAI Bootcamp.
I think the psychological secret behind each of those life turning-point successes was decision. My father says that when I first heard about the children’s essay contest, I put my hands on my hips and announced, “I’m going to win.” When I won the spec challenge, it was more a case of “I need to win.”
Did winning that spec assignment help your writing business take off?
Things really started to take off just before that, at the end of August 2017. I won two other challenges, one for Wealthy Web Writer, and one for the Professional Writers’ Alliance. It was a real moment of revelation for me. I was also working nearly full-time on the AWAI specs, so even though I didn’t have a lot of money, I started creating a working rhythm and was enjoying myself.
What keeps you motivated now?
I work best in an environment of clutter and semi-chaos. So I have several things that help and inspire me. I have a “cheat sheet” poster from AWAI with tips, quotes, and formulas on the wall next to my desk. And I have a favorite memento, a glass turtle paperweight — a gift from my family — that reminds me that taking my time and getting each project done right is more important than making a quick buck.
What can you tell someone who’s new to this world?
It’s great to have a final goal in mind, whether it’s a specific monetary amount or a way that your life will change for the better. Just don’t get so focused on what your life should be looking like that you miss all the great moments and milestones that are happening right now. Living the Barefoot Writer’s life is about remembering to celebrate all the big and little things that make our lives so extraordinary.
Meet more people like Suzanna living their dream writer’s life each month in Barefoot Writer. If you aren’t a member yet, click here to join the club!