Miel Moreland, author of It Goes Like This, discusses the financial tips and tricks she uses as an author and university administrative employee.
Money Girl Laura Adams: When did you decide that you wanted to become an author (or other career)?
Miel Moreland: I knew I wanted to write books from a very young age, five or six at the latest. I committed to it in a serious way when I was about sixteen.
MG: Do you write full-time?
MM: I do not write full-time! I have a full-time administrative position at a university. I make more money from that job than from writing—and my job also comes with paid time off, employer-sponsored health insurance, and other benefits. It can be tricky to balance, time-wise, but the stability afforded to me by having a day job means I’m less anxious about my writing, because I’m not counting on writing books quickly in order to be able to pay rent. Since I’m both a slow writer and someone with anxiety, it’s much better to have this pressure taken off.
MG: Did you study writing (or something else) or has it always come naturally to you?
MM: I did not study writing—I was a double English/Politics major in college, but the English program at my school was focused on literature. I only took one creative writing class in college, and that was a mixture of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction. Writing comes naturally in the sense that the love for writing comes naturally, but the skill requires significant and ongoing practice, and of course lots of revision. I read a lot (or, at least I thought I read a lot until I realized how much bloggers read!), and I’m always trying to learn from other writers.
MG: When you first started writing (or something else), were there any financial challenges? If so, how did you manage them?
MM: When I first started writing It Goes Like This, I’d just finished my teaching assistant contract in France and was back in the United States, living with my parents while I applied to jobs. Ultimately, during the year in which I wrote, revised, and queried It Goes Like This, I had a constantly changing job situation, while simultaneously applying to grad school: unemployed, working more than full time, working part-time... If I hadn’t been living at home, I wouldn’t have been able to write during periods of unemployment and part-time work—because it would have been urgent for me to work more. Instead, because much of the money I earned that year went into savings for my move to the East Coast, I was able to make the choice to work less and write more at certain times.
MG: What advice would you give someone who's creative or wants to change their lifestyle about balancing passion for their art and earning an income?
MM: Perhaps the first question is to determine if you want to earn money from your art. You don’t have to! In fact, you should consider whether turning your passion into a job could actually decrease your enjoyment of your art. If you decide to pursue financial return from your art, do you want it to be fun, bonus money, or serious money that you will rely on? What kind of time is required to make the quality and quantity of art necessary for your answer? I spend a lot of time on my author job that isn’t purely writing—I’m reading to improve my craft, networking with other authors, and promoting my books.
Before you start a side hustle, you should consider whether turning your passion into a job could actually decrease your enjoyment of your art.
Then you need to be serious about both your current financial needs or commitments and your future goals. How much money would you need from writing in order to make it an integral part of your income? What are you counting as writing: will you also offer editing services, pitch yourself for classroom visits, or write freelance articles in addition to novels? If you stay in a regular full-time or part-time job while writing, what’s the trigger point at which you would consider being a full-time writer? If you try writing full-time, what’s the plan for if it’s not sustainable long-term? You’re not less of a writer just because you have bills to pay and you can’t pay them entirely through book advances.
If you’re balancing art with another job, there are plenty of factors to consider. Some writers thrive on having other jobs related to writing, such as teaching or working in communications. I would be too drained by having a day job that required a lot of creativity. For now, I’ve also deliberately chosen a job with a strict 9-5 schedule. If I were in a job that required a significant amount of overtime, I wouldn’t have time to write. As with everything in life, don’t be afraid to change your mind as your wants or needs evolve over time!
It can be tricky to balance, time-wise, but the stability afforded to me by having a day job means I’m less anxious about my writing.
MG: What do you like to spend money on that some people might consider a splurge or luxury?
MM: Cake from local bakeries to celebrate any book milestone, no matter how minor. And concerts, of course—I promise I didn’t write any tickets off on my taxes as book research.
MG: What’s the best thing you’ve bought in the last few months?
MM: On a practical level, the best thing I bought was a new phone. My previous one was old, physically falling apart, and could not hold a charge. Plus, it was constantly crashing, which was obviously an issue when a significant part of being an author is promoting your books online!
On a fun level, I recently bought a ticket to a live comedy show for the first time. I started watching comedy specials and stand-up during the pandemic, and since live comedy seems to be coming back sooner than live music, this is replacing a concert I might have gone to this year.
I grew up in a household that prioritized experiences over things, and sometimes experiences translate to really nice chocolate cake, and sometimes you just want to be in a big space with other people, all sharing in a particular joy.
MG: What’s the biggest money mistake you’ve ever made?
MM: Not tracking my expenses exactly when I got my first post-college position. I had a basic budget, and I kept a rough sum going in my head, but not knowing the exact numbers was an unnecessary stressor. This was complicated by the fact that my savings were in my American bank and my income—and most of my expenses—were going through my French bank.
It’s especially important to track your money exactly when you’re not charging everything to the same account, or when some portion of your money is only available for certain purchases or in certain locations.
MG: Tell me a financial rule that you never break.
MM: I pay my credit card off completely every month!
Okay, I have broken this rule twice... once when I had to use my American credit card for certain travel expenses but my paychecks were going into my French bank account, and once when a friend was slow to pay me back for a concert ticket. But it’s now been years since I’ve broken this streak.