As a young writer, I used to set a rather simple writing goal: spend at least $500 per year to grow my skills as a writer. In the early days, at the age of 17, I bought my first used typewriter, purchased some writing books from the university, and then got a subscription to some writing magazines. Most of those were very good investments. Yeah, I never published a thing that I wrote on that old typewriter, but it was good practice, and a couple of years later when I bought my first Macintosh, I learned how much better a computer could be.
In college, instead of just reading books, I began to take classes: writing poetry, short stories, editing, reading literature, and so on, and my $500-per-year writing habit probably consumed more than its allotment, but then I hadn’t been spending my investment money while I was a young missionary. I also began taking the occasional workshop.
I soon began spending some of my money on research books and magazines—getting half a dozen subscriptions, and purchasing books in addition to those that I checked out of the libraries.
When I began writing my first novels, I also added a bit of travel into the mix to do research, going first to England and Scotland, then eventually taking off to places like South America, Australia, and Asia. Some years I spend much more than that original $500, some less.
I mention this because it is Cyber Monday. I just bought myself some new writing software that I’ve been wanting (I keep thinking about getting Scrivener and Scapple, and finally did it—at half price). I also bought some more books on writing, got a hotel for an upcoming trip, and I am looking at heading to Europe again in the summer to do a bit more research on castles and whatnot. I’m going to look into Norway and Sweden this time.
So, what has my $500 per year gotten me? Well, I’ve learned my craft fairly well. I have a nice library of research books, plenty of software, and several computers, in case one ever breaks down. I’ve visited many of the places in the world that intrigue me. I financed an entire education. I started a career some 30 years ago, which has earned me several million dollars, from writing, editing, and mentoring others.
A certain part of me says, “Hey, Dave, you should give some advice on writing today.” But given the great sales going on in software, electronics, travel, books, and so on, this just seems timely.