How to be a Writer

What does it take to be a writer today? With all the new opportunities the internet has given us, it seems I’m not the only one with this question. Laura is here to answer how she made her dream of being a writer come true.

I met Laura at Dan Louche’s Tiny House workshop in Atlanta a few months ago. Her story was so inspiring that it stuck with me. She was kind enough to answer several questions for me about her life as a writer and tiny house builder. I found it to be so full of valuable information that I plan to share this one on my blog (since it also has to do with Tiny Houses), but I wanted you to have the first opportunity to read it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

*Note: I highlighted some of my favorite parts of her answers. She was not emphasizing them herself.*

Interview with Laura LaVoie of Life in 120 Square Feet

Tell me about your transition from your “day job” to writing full-time. What’s the best thing you did to establish yourself as a writer?
Laura: For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a writer, but after I graduated from college I ended up following the path of least resistance. I landed in the temporary staffing industry and worked as a recruiter for 15 years. The last 8 of those were at the same company in Georgia. The job was okay for the most part and I was good at it, but it never fulfilled the part of me that always wanted to do something a little less ordinary. Eventually I realized that the only thing standing in my way was me. It is easy to come up with reasons why you can’t do something so I understand why it can take most of us so long to take the leap, if we ever do. But I realized that no one was going to call me up and offer me a job as a writer; I had to make my own opportunities. The best thing I did to establish myself as a professional was reach out to marketing companies to see if they might be looking for bloggers. It paid off. Not everyone responded with a yes, but enough did that I was able to build a portfolio. At the beginning I was also willing to take jobs that paid less which was worth it to have professional work available. I also made sure to keep up with my personal blog. It is a true labor of love since I don’t make any real money with that, but it can lead the other opportunities.

 

I’ve recently been sharing how I got out of debt. Are you in debt, or have you been? Do you have any financial advice?

Laura: I am not in debt at this time. I am actually in better financial shape than I was when I worked a 40 hour a week job for a good salary. Becoming a freelance writer went hand in hand with moving into the tiny house that my partner and I built ourselves. Our home has no mortgage and no rent. We saved money for 10 years before we bought our land so we could make this dream happen. Our systems are all off the grid so we have no power or water bills to worry about. My consumer debt has always been fairly minimal and I still have a credit card which I pay off each month. Most of my salary when I was working full time went to the mortgage for a large home and the utilities. I’m not the most financially minded person so I try to keep things very simple and don’t spend more than I make. This keeps me out of trouble for the most part.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? Are there any websites or books you use(d) or would particularly suggest?

Laura: The first thing I would suggest is to find a mentor or a network of people who can help you, guide you, and give you advice. My network has been a mix of peers and professionals who act as my sounding board.
Then I reached out to marketing companies and organizations that specialized in a subject for which I was already an expert. In my case, I emailed a company that does marketing and web design for the temporary staffing industry. I sent my resume, told them what I was looking for, about my experience, and asked if they were looking for bloggers. They were and hired me on the spot. They are still my biggest client.

After that I spent a lot of time looking at freelance writing job boards and submitting my resume to everything that I even remotely felt qualified for. There are a few great ones: http://jobs.problogger.net/ and http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/ are my favorites. I did both writing and my full time job for about three months before I actually quit my job to see what I thought of it. It gave me a chance to start slowly, save a little more money, and feel more comfortable when I put in my notice.

Did you self-publish your book 120 Ideas for Living Tiny? What was that process of having a book published like? What do you wish you had known before you started?

Laura: Yes, I self-published 120 Ideas for Tiny Living. I used CreateSpace, which is owned by Amazon, and found the process very user friendly and intuitive. I think the only thing I would have done differently is not procrastinated so much. It took me over a year to get that book out because I kept putting off some of the steps, but they all turned out to be pretty easy.

What is your favorite thing about your book?

Laura: I’m just generally proud that I got it published and that people are reading it. I suppose my favorite section is the one about my cat, Piglet.

What are some opportunities living in a tiny house has given you that you wouldn’t have otherwise?

Laura: Without the tiny house I would have never felt comfortable quitting my job and becoming a freelance writer. We also put the tiny house in a place we really wanted to live, so that also gave us an opportunity to feel connected to the community. I even got a job at the local Laundromat/Bar because we were spending a lot of time there.

Because you are off the grid, did you build solar panels first in order to have power for the tools you were using to build?

Laura: For our tools we used a combination of battery powered Ryobi tools, a Honda generator, and a cheap set of solar panels. We would take the batteries for the tools back to our house and charge them between building trips. The generator powered larger tools like our compounding miter saw. And the solar panels were a very small system bought from Harbor Freight which could power small things.  We didn’t install our final solar power system until after we had moved into the tiny house.

You’ve already hit some big life goals by building a tiny house and writing books. What’s next for you as far as big dreams, or are you just enjoying the work you’ve already done?
Laura: I would like to publish a book through traditional channels. I’ve been working on a proposal so we’ll see what happens with that. I would also like to continue traveling and speaking about tiny houses to groups.

Please share some of your most popular links to your blog posts for those who don’t know much of your story.

Laura: This is a fun question. I went to my blog stats to see what the most popular blog posts of all time were and then I picked my favorites from the list. Here are the ones that people seem to like that I am also proud of.
The first is a post where I was figuring out the philosophy of tiny living. This led to a series of posts about “Deliberate Living.” The next is a post about how no two tiny houses are alike. The third and fourth are practical posts about building an air pressurized shower and installing our solar power system.
http://www.120squarefeet.com/2013/05/tiny-living-doesnt-even-have-to-be-tiny.html
http://www.120squarefeet.com/2014/03/the-fallacy-of-one-size-fits-all-tiny.html
http://www.120squarefeet.com/2011/10/lets-build-shower.html
http://www.120squarefeet.com/2012/07/sunny-days-solar-intallation.html

_________________________________________
Her recent post, “When I Made Excuses,” also shares part of her
journey of following her Big Dreams. You can also check out her book, complete with pictures of her own tiny house.

Thanks for reading!

“How to be a Writer” is a series of interviews with an array of today’s authors who tell the story of how they came to their craft. This one is posted on the blog because it has so much to do with my theme here, but for the most part the other interviews will only appear in my newsletter. If you’d like to continue to take advantage of this FREE writing advice, please sign up for my newsletter (which you can unsubscribe to at any time).

 

 

Hoarding is My Love Language (and what I’m doing about it)

Receiving gifts and words of affirmation are my love languages.

This translates into me wanting to keep every gift and note ever given to me.

As I accumulated more over the years, I must’ve subconsciously told myself:

 

“It’s not my fault I love people and actually care about what they give me and things that remind me of them. That’s not a bad thing! It looks to me like hoarding is just my love language. There’s no changing that.”

 

In order to prepare for my big dream of living in a tiny house, I was challenged to face the fact that if I didn’t get rid of “stuff” then my tiny house would always be a big mess!

For the month of June, I decided to try a new idea I’d heard.

Actually, the reason I tried it is because my sister said she put in the newspaper that she was having a 3-family yardsale and I was one of those families! I had a week to gather items. I took some stuff my mom was getting rid of, but it still wasn’t much. I was working full-time, so I committed to simply get rid of 10 items a day. Bam! I’d have 50 by the end of the week.

It worked so well  that I decided to continue for the rest of the month. Some nights after a long day at work, I would spend a mere 10 minutes getting rid of more than 10 things…partly due to the fact that it was boxes of stuff from college days.

I didn’t stick with it completely, but I still got rid of about 100 items that I had little emotional attachment to. Even though I was enjoying the freedom of having less, I still have plenty I’m attached to. What made this way of decluttering work for me unlike anything else had before?

I didn’t have to spend grueling hours sorting through boxes of papers to see if I should keep them. I didn’t have to make a decision about every item. So much thinking! No, I just glanced around and said, “Hey, why do I still have this? It can count as one of my 10 items.” Or, “I won’t use this for years, and it takes up lots of space. I bet someone will buy it, and then I can get another at a thrift store or online if I miss it.” I only focused on the stuff that would be easy for me to get rid of.

 

However, after a month, I was tired of that method. I may go back to it again, but for July I decided to join some groups of people getting rid of a bag of stuff a day. It seems similar to what I was already doing, but my approach this time is to first of all list the sections that need attention. Then I take a close up “before” photo of it like so…

Before Decluttering

 

I’ve done plenty of decluttering before without taking pictures first, and I’ve even done it once when I took only one picture of an entire room. I had way less motivation then. To declutter by taking “before” pictures works like never before because I wanted to see the “after” picture.

I knew it could happen in a day (partly because I had the day off but also because I had chosen a tiny section to organize). Taking the picture was worth the effort. It made me want to transform the rest of my room.

After Decluttering

 

It has been helpful for me to join decluttering groups online because after I’d done all the hard work, I had something to show for it. I could share it with people who wouldn’t be negative about it. At the same time, I was able to motivate them. I wouldn’t invite tons of people inside my entire room, but I was ok with showing the part that I had cleaned (even though I also shared the messy picture). This accountability in decluttering was like nothing I had tried before because online communities among strangers haven’t always been so common. Take advantage of it! I’m continually getting comments on what I’ve done which is encouraging me to keep going with it.

I know it’s hard to find time, which is why I had to make this a priority. If you’re feeling the same way, you can sign up for my newsletter at the top right of this page where I’ll continue posting about my journey. I’ll then invite you to join my Facebook group: Tiny House, Big Mess! 🙂 That way you can show me your “before” and “after” pictures to keep me motivated.

 

Just Another Blogpost on Being Single

Aren’t there enough articles about being single already?

Every time I see one, I think the answer to that question is yes. (Which is why I’ve never written one…along with the fact that I don’t want everyone to know I’m single and then proceed to try to “help” me change that.)

But I read them anyway. Every. time.

And every time, I still get something new out of it. Maybe it’s just one of those messages we need to hear over and over. (Which is why I finally decided to share some of my thoughts on the subject…along with the fact that a friend recently shared a post with me about being single and said “It sounds like something you would write.” But one big thing was different about what I would write.)

 

When I say I’m happy being single, the response is one of three things:

  1. “Really?”
  2. “How?”
  3. Or my personal favorite, the confident future-predicting, “You’ll find someone.”

Occasionally there’s some form of “Good for you! Being married does not make you happy.” No matter what, the surprised or confused or shocked faces are priceless.

 

I’m not opposed to getting married myself (although I admit I kinda used to be), but I also don’t think it’s necessary in order to have a good or complete life. And I don’t think simply being married means you automatically have a good or complete life.

I mentioned that I’ve read many articles on being single, but I’ve read just as many on being married. Both lifestyles have their ups and downs.

For some reason, people ask my opinion on relationships even for their marriages when they know I’ve never been married. Ok, maybe just one person, who happens to be related to me, does that.

But still, I like having a helpful reply. So even if I don’t use what I learn about marriage for myself (although many of the ideas shared in those articles can be applied to other relationships), I can pass the information on to others going through that particular situation.

 

Before I share the reasons I’m happy being single, let me say that even though other posts have included things they like about being single, such lists that I’ve read are usually preceded or followed by reasons they don’t like being single.

It’s not a bad thing. I think it’s great that people who don’t like being single can still find good things to focus on about it while they aren’t married. In fact, that optimism will help them once they do get married.

That’s just not me.

What about those of us who really are fine either way? Or even prefer being single? It’s not that we don’t realize there are benefits to being married.

If marriage comes to my life: Awesome. I’m in good company.

If not: Awesome. I’m in good company.

Which leads me to one of the first of 5 things I like about being single (which is by no means a complete list…but I preferred not to waste your time with mostly reasons that are shared on every post about being single)…

5 Reasons I'm Happy Being Single

By the way, this is a picture of me with my brother in Alaska on our 40 day road trip.

  1. All the {incredible} single ladies: Jane Austen, Corrie ten Boom, and Mother Teresa to name a few that immediately come to mind. Their influence and stories are an encouragement that I too can make a difference as a single lady.
  2. I’ve got one less problem without you {life insurance}. (I promise that’s the last of my weird song references. My apologies.) But ahh, one less stress and one less monthly bill. That’s right. I don’t need life insurance because no one else is depending on my income.
  3. If I never get married, I’ll never get divorced. Do not judge the deeper psychological issues going on here. 🙂 Yes, my parents are divorced, but as my brother pointed out to me, it apparently did not affect my 4 siblings like it did me. Three of them are married and the younger one hopes to be. Still, it’s nice to know 100% that it won’t happen to me as a single.
  4. I like my last name. (Starbuck, for those of you who don’t know.) When other people comment on it, I sometimes tell them it’s why I’m never getting married. I think I’ll keep it.
  5. Then there’s the typical, I have more freedom because I’m not coordinating my life with a spouse or children. Yes, I could still go on road trips or overseas or move in order to get a better job or build a tiny house, but with a family it’s usually a much bigger decision and a lot more work.

Knowing I am loved is the biggest contributor to all of this happiness with my life right now. Plenty of people care about me. I don’t need a spouse or gasp even a boyfriend in order to feel loved.

And plenty of people are married to, or dating, someone who makes them feel quite unloved.

Just as being single isn’t what makes me happy, being married isn’t what makes married people happy. There are things about being single that contribute to my happiness, just as there are things about marriage that contribute to theirs.

Whether you’re single or married or divorced or widowed, you are loved by Someone.

And that’s a mighty fine reason to be happy.

 

 

What do you think? Are you happy being single? What are your favorite things about it? Do you think there are too many posts about being single? Who is your favorite person who never married?

 

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below to let me know! Thanks for reading…and don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter if you’d like to receive updates of posts such as this along with some fun bonus materials and freebies:

 

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Also, check out my friend’s blog in which she shares her Knot List (like a Bucket List of things you want to do before you get married or “tie the knot”…yes, she went sky diving!).