The biggest contribution Shakespeare made to the literature world is the Three Act Structure. It is fundamental to the plot of any narrative piece. The Three Act Structure mirrors real life. However, the fundamental difference that in real life, most people only arrive at a state of False Victory, the end of Act 2. They never have the courage to move to Act 3, to explore what is the Real Victory. The real ending.
In the movie, A Perfect Man, an aspiring writer who works as a cleaner falls in love with a university professor. He is tasked to clean out an old dead man apartment. He finds a finished manuscript written by the reclusive man about his biography on the Algerian war. He takes the manuscript, types it out in his computer and burns the hard copy. He sends the manuscript to a publishing house, and he receives a call to sign a contract. He starts rehearsing how to answer interview questions by the press by following identically to what other famous writers say through videos on YouTube. The university professor turns up at his book launch, she is impressed by his book. They start dating.
This is a false victory. He got the fame, he got the book published, he got the girl he liked. But all these are false because he never wrote the book. He was an imposter. In real life, we see many imposters like him. There are people like Paris Hilton who are famous when they have absolutely no talents. We have CEOs who hog the limelight when all they do is destroy the environment to increase corporate profits. We know an imposter when we see one. They are everywhere around us. Most people live in false victories, in imposed lives.
For a second, I was about to give up and disappear as you fell into your false victory. I did not know how to explain this in a format that made sense to you. I just couldn’t bear to see that happen to you. I am sorry, I freaked out. I should have stayed calm and try to explain it in a logical fashion that I meant. It was devastating to me as I see it so clearly that you are falling into the false victory.
There is nothing wrong with living in this mode like 99% of the others out there living out imposter lives. They work as a journalist when all they want to do is to write a novel. They work as lawyers but under the desks are half-completed manuscripts. They know who they love, but due to a parental objection, they give up on love.
Living life in the 1% is extremely hard. Moving from the false victory to the real victory is difficult and not achievable for most people. I had lived my shadow life writing business reports for years when all I want to do in my life to write my books and communicate my artistic ideas. Till today, I face the daily opposition of self-doubt of my own abilities.
What happened at the end of the movie, A Perfect Man was tragic. A friend of the old dead man threatened to blackmail the imposed to the press that he wasn’t the real author of the war biography. The author killed the blackmailer. He killed his brother in law who suspected he was an imposter.
Ridden with guilt and unable to produce the sequel to the war biography as publishers were haunting him daily for the next book, he placed the dead body of the blackmailer on his car seat and set it in flames. The next day, the newspapers reported that the famous author was dead, mistaking the blackmailer body for his. His girlfriend was pregnant and devastated.
At the ending scene, the writer lived a vagabond life without an identity working in ad-hoc jobs that paid in cash. He walked past a bookstore and saw his girlfriend. She was reading aloud the rejected manuscript that was originally what he wrote as an aspiring author. The audience gave a round of applause. A baby was handed to her arms. It was their child. She kissed the baby while looking at the clapping crowd. The rejected manuscript he originally wrote is now displayed prominently on the front display of the bookstore.
He wore his hood and disappeared into the darkness of the night.
A writer’s job in editing is finding about inauthenticities in the writing. For every work, there is continuous revisions to update the work itself. As it goes with relationships, it is a daily commitment to make relationships work. It is not a given that we are born to a family that we know our family members well either. It is a daily re-commitment to talk to them and get to know them better.
Finding inauthenticities frees us up to being authentic with who we are. Who we are is the sum of the people in our lives. To be truly free, is to be truly authentic about our inauthentic selves. When a person of high integrity talks, the words cut through. The impact shakes the universe. I had that experience in front of Heather Graham. Her words impacted me in a way that left me moved to believe that it was possible to be a world renowned author.
Heather Graham’s husband was in the audience during her panel at the Thrillerfest. When asked which actress she would choose to portray a character in her book, she said, “I will choose my own daughter, who is an aspiring actress.” What makes Heather Graham great is not the 150 novels she had written, but her ability to inspire others around her. Similarly, what makes C. J. Box a best selling author was his reply to the question of who the beta readers of his books are is, “his wife and three children.”
The great authors are at their truly authentic selves as their family is involved in every process in the way of them being able to shake the world and sell millions of books with lasting impact. Authors who are overnight success on the other hand, do not have the lasting impact of success due to the inauthenticities that creep in once they had made it.
After visiting New York and meeting world reowned authors in the Thrillerfest, I realised that working on inauthenticities is crucial to making authenticity work. The big names we see who impact the world are life figures of those who had overcame their own inauthenticities to make a difference in this world. The people who are limited in their fixed way of being are subconsciously limiting those around them. By being open to feedback, a person rises from mediocrity to greatness.
Sex was the most talked about topic in the writer’s convention. To me, sex is sex. It doesn’t conjure anything up for me. To me, it is a flat three letter word that says S E X. The society however, made this word warped and confusing for most modern women. The very sound of the word sends some people spinning.
I do write about sex. Sex is like eating. To me, eating and sex are fundamentally human needs. Animals are biologically engineered to seek for these two things as well. I use the analogy of food to cover the undertone of sex heavily in my writings. Some authors can write about sex, some authors just can’t. It is a personal choice.
From my reading list, Asian authors do write about sex in more graphic details. Reading and writing novels is one of the liberties of our culture that no one would bat an eye lid on. My favourite author, Natsuo Kirino writes about murder and sex in almost every page. She is a celebrated horror writer in Japan. Anne Rice is another author who writes heavily on the undertone of sex. Her sleeping beauty series is a classic example of modern erotica.
Being a modern day celebrity is the equivalent of being a modern day sex symbol. The deprivation, the misunderstanding, the misguiding of sexuality in this century has lead to our modern day sexual dysfunction. In Japan, statistics show that half of the people do not have sex. The heavy reliance on videos, manga and other sorts of entertainment has created a false world there people would divert their attention to instead of building relationships.
As a creator, my hope is people would use my content to explore their the possibility of their lives and not grow dependent on it.
An interesting discussion at the thriller fest came up was that, “writers are perceived as experts in a field.” It hit me then that since publication of my first book I am now perceived as an authority figure. It dawned on me this shift of perception has an effect on how others related to me.
Now, I seem to be the go to person for answers ranging from any topic about the meaning of life although I write in the thriller genre with women serial killers. Initially I wasn’t able to comprehend this shift of how others related to me but now I embrace it. I am now actively listening for what someone has to say about their point of view. I am now interested in people’s lives. Maybe that’s why writers are the to go to person as we are actively seeking for answers to life as much as everyone else.
It seemed that my being has magnified tremendously since I published a book. There is now another layer of me existing outside me. There is the power of language that penetrates into the subconscious of those who encounter my words. I realize that my gift is a blessing and curse, and I have to undo the damage of my past by revisiting them and re-creating what is in the present for those around me to advance them in their own pursuits as well.
I embrace my being as a writer and now, it’s my time to contribute my knowledge to humanity.
First, I have to admit that I love control. I could spend an entire day planning and scheduling. It fits my occupation as a novelist. For a moment, we can suspend time and in the novel’s universe we are GOD! YES! That’s right, writing gives the ULTIMATE sense of control as I can kill off any characters and make them liked or disliked. I can control the scenes. Practically all the characters become my puppets and I am the puppet master muahahaha! I realised that I needed a new project management software for the purposes of writing a few novel projects and delivering them on time (like a business). I have to track my income and expenditure and ensure I am on track with my delivery. I decided to test out a new cutting edge space age design software at thrivesolo.com .
Honestly, these new software tools makes our jobs much easier. For example, Scrivener changed my writing life by allowing me to outline my book without having to write anything on paper. I had been much more productive after using Scrivener as compared to a normal words document. The reason is, software enables creators to think in a big picture and retrieve files and research and scenes more efficiency. I would even attribute Scrivener as a life saver to increasing my serious writing output. I wouldn’t have completed a 80 000 words novel without that software.
Hence the search for the ULTIMATE control started by looking for the ONE software that will enable me to concurrently manage my writing projects and deliver my final drafts on time.
I currently manage my life using Google Calendar, Google Keep, Google Task, Google Documents and Spreadsheets. But it seems that everything is all over the place. I needed one central database that I can log in and know what I have to do for the day. I would also require a software that has a time tracker so I know how much time I am spending per project and if I am exceeding my allocated time. If I am exceeding time, that means I have to change my writing process (by changing locations, fixing my outline). Having a time management system in place allows me to study my progress and allocate the best times of the day for writing and nothing else. I currently use Google Spreadsheets to track my writing output and hours (eg: 2 hours from 2pm – 4pm, 2000 words). But I would like a software to generate information on that (how cool if there are graphs that will show compare my weekly writing output).
Novel Projects and Deadlines
What I like about the interface is that it shows the project deadline and if you have exceeded your allocated budget. I had currently allocated $20 000 to The Ocra. I had given myself an hourly rate of $10. So it means if I exceed writing the book for 2000 hours, I am over my “budget”. But I estimate I would spend about 1000 hours writing and the remaining budget would be to cover the cost of publishing (editors, cover design, marketing etc). Honestly, most novelists never make $20 000 to recover their initial time and investment in writing a full length book. It’s purely out of passion that most writers are writing what they write. I would like to recover my investment of time and effort in monetary terms, but I would not use it as a gauge of my success or impact.
Time Tracker on Thrive Solo
Anyway, thrivesolo is not THAT advanced, but the time tracking part is okay. The time tracker allows categorization of tasks. For my illustration, the main three activities of a novelist is: writing, outlining, research. I could see how much time I spent on each activity. But there is no weekly comparison chart time chart (yet). It seems I still have to use Google Spreadsheets for this function.
Milestones and Tasks on Thrive Solo
It’s quite inspiring to look at the interface design of this software in regards to setting milestones and tasks. Milestones are accomplished once all the tasks under it is completed. I feel kind of motivated when I look at this list. And the deadline. It fills me up with urgency! I love it! I used to put my milestones and tasks on Google Calendar and sometimes I will let it slip as there is no “deadline”. But this software now forces me to acknowledge I have to complete these deliverables by a specific date. This is probably the favourite part of the software that I like.
Thrive Solo Price and Conclusion
For $150 a year, it’s quite steep as there are many free options out there like Google Apps. I would recommend using this software if you simply have too many projects and too little time. For example, I have to focus on delivering content on my YouTube channel and novels and it is hard to keep track of both. Also, I would highly recommend this software to freelancers or those who are operating solo and would like to track their hours and invoice their customers. But an accountancy software like Quickbooks is still needed for tax filing as this is a project management software. I will probably use this software for a few months and see how it goes and I will update again if I am more productive using this and if I do deliver my novels on time!
My writing threshold is still at 2 hours mark per session. On the 2h 30min mark my brain is fried. I have drunk a full cup of latte and green tea. I am drinking an espresso now, but it isn’t helping yet. Outlining two novels is definitely mind consuming. I wish I could write more hours and feel energetic about it, but the drilling noises near where I stay is affecting my sleep and concentration. I have to sleep early, get out early, and exercise more consistently if I want to up my productivity.
I had changed my diet to high protein and lots of veggies. This is to keep my sugar level constant so I don’t crash. I hardly eat any white rice or noodles. I am almost sugar free. I learnt crucially yesterday that I have to stay away from pork or I may get stomach upset. I used to be able to eat anything, but after living in so many different countries, my stomach is much more sensitive.
I am breaking up 2 hours of writing time in two time slots. I will work later at night at home, when the drilling noises stop. Once I am finished with my outlines, I hope to write as fast as possible without making the same mistakes as I did with my first novel. I hope to dedicate solid four hours a day to my writing and nothing else.
Some of my crucial lessons from writing my first novel were:
- Do not take a two year break of writing, just write the first draft quickly and revise it within the same year.
- Outline all main and sub characters before starting to write, put out all their conflicts and roles in the story and their roles have to contribute to moving the storyline. Delete characters that serve no roles.
- The settings has to be solidified and they should even have their own logo and trademark if possible. People should be able to instantly relate to the setting once you mention the name. Like “Hogwarts”.
- Contemporary settings shortcut the world building process, but still the uniqueness of the setting has to be brought out by the writer from the character eyes. It has to be something others have no noticed despite years of living in that setting.
- Human motivations are universal and not dependent on ethnicity or geographic location, anyone should be able to relate to the main characters for this reason.
I have to stay dedicated and think of the long term impact of my writings instead of short term monetary or recognition gains. When I watch the news, I see people acting out of pride and anger. The paris attacks are upsetting, as well as the terrorist acts around the world. I can hardly watch the news for this reason, it only fills me with such deep sadness at the state of the human condition that I lose my focus and motivation.
I hope one day, the human consciousness will evolve out of these emotions and go towards courage, willingness and love. That is my dream, a very idealistic one but I believe the world is full of abundance and we are fighting over nothing, but our own egoistic needs. There is much more noble causes out there to fight for, and when we start to focus on the bigger picture, our own pride disappears and a new sense of selflessness replaces the emotion of wanting. I feel that submission is the highest level of love, for when we submit ourselves to the greater good, it only magnifies and returns with unlimited abundance.
Looking at the stars and galaxy, being interconnected on the cloud, reading these text on cyberspace, we have already advanced so far, but the pride of those in power wants to keep us in this eternal servitude and bondage. But there is no bondage, it’s an illusion of the mind. What changes everything is our mindset in how we approach life. That we are free, and we have the power to change the future, instead of letting predetermined events happen to us. If the French Revolution could occur at the hands of the people, why can’t we change the world to make it a better place? These are endless possibilities.
As long we continue to dream, and let go of our internal bondage, we can be free.
The Red Hourglass hit 7000 downloads today on Amazon after 20 days of it’s release. I predict that there will be about 100 000 downloads in about six months. As of now, I am currently outlining the sequel. It’s called The Ocra, from Mimi POV. I am having fun with character boards and redrawing the universe. It seems that I am much more efficient compared to when I initially started out. What would take me weeks to outline, now takes me hours. It’s like my learning curve for the first book had short cut the process for my second book. I am able to bypass lots of mistakes that I previously made and know instinctively “what to do” now.
I also feel that I am much more expressive compared to before. I had learnt to let go over time and not really care what people think about me anymore. I used to hold back, but now I do it free flow. I write what I want, film when I feel like it. I don’t try to push or force myself too hard as I used to. I have to admit I used to be quite hardcore on myself, now I take lots of breaks. I exercise. I stretch and walk around. I set a timer to take a 17 minute break every 52 minutes, as according to latest research, the best productivity occurs in this time span.
I booked myself into a co-working space where I can drop in to write without interruptions. I used to do cafe hopping, but cafes are not consistently quiet. Some days it’s crowded. I need a quiet space, where it is guaranteed. I found a special spot at a very low cost that it’s unbelievable. They probably think I am a fresh grad etsy start up as most of the people in the co-working area are older men. I am so glad at this secret find that I am not going to reveal my new writing hideout :X
I am also outlining a series called “The Switch” in the contemporary romance genre. I usually work on multiple projects at one time, as being on one project drains me. I have to work on a few different tasks to feel energised. It goes with my reading habits. I read stimulanetous books at the same time, I flip from historical romance, to thrillers, to contemporary, to non fiction self help. It’s just the way my brain works in it’s dyslexic interconnected ways.
As for Butterfly, it is a very niche book in the femdom segment. I will probably just publish a novella first, and if the response is positive I would continue to work on it. I have so much notes on that book but I had been very very afraid to publish it over the years. I think female dominance is not a very common thing, and I just have crazy ideas on it that I can’t express elsewhere. But maybe it is the fantasy of many? Who knows!
After I am done outlining The Ocra, The Switch and Butterfly, I would be focus on my word count daily goals and hopefully I will be releasing two full length books and a novella a year if things goes well.
I will resume filming as Risque soon and do some audio recordings of her. I miss her too and I hope she returns back to screen on Youtube soon.
I started a few successful businesses while I was pursuing my business studies in school. I became a distributor of products at 18 years old when I could legally sign my first contract. I gave tuition on the side. Before I was 18, I was using my mum’s credit card to start an ebay account to buy and sell products. When I was 12, I had a virtual online shop on neopets were I sold potions for virtual currency and made a killing with my best friend. There are many different instances where I put my creativity and resourcefulness into play. I think there is no running away from this calling once you are connected to your higher purpose – mind – heart and soul.
The reason why I choose self publishing because I want to experiment with my creativity and have the freedom to do whatever I want without anyone else telling me what to do. Maybe I am controlling in that sense, but I have a strong work ethnic and I spend hours of research before I take any action to write a single line or film a video. It makes me feel good to see that people appreciate my products and services which are my unique offerings to the world. I was reading this diagram on self publishing and boy, it really resonated with me and inspired me to write this post on why I feel so strongly about my self publishing independent journey.
There are a few factors that lead to my current line of thought, one key reason why I chose this lonely difficult path is because I do not want any casualty. What do I mean by that? If I start any other business, and that business fails, I have to lay off staff. I dislike firing people, but when there are no more clients or the economy goes down, staff have to be laid off. But with writing, the only person I have to depend on is myself. I have to produce my targets on time, and I am the only casualty in this. This makes me feel more content at least I can control the outcome (by deciding to write more or rest).
How I work – I have a Google Calendar where I put my milestones for the day and checklists. I have a five year business plan for my writing which I enact on, and readjust my strategies. I reevaluate my actions yesterday, and re-correct my actions for today. If the past month actions produce no results, I will switch my direction and mode of operation by formulating a different strategy. I have to admit I fail most of the time (9/10 times). Only about less than 5% my plans produce results. Some days I feel like a total failure and defeated for this reason. I had regroup my friendship net and built up my core group of support network over time so that I won’t be thrown off the grid if the going gets too tough. As a entrepreneur sometimes you got to be ready to lose everything you have overnight, so you can operate without the fear of having everything taken away from you.
It’s like poker. You can’t win if you show your tells. You can’t win if you show your fear. You have to zen out and think rationally about each decision. Will you be able to make your opponent fold knowing you have the weaker hand? Will you be able to bluff? Will you be able to make him bet knowing you have the stronger hand? These are very mental decisions. These are the thought processes that goes on everyday for an entrepreneur. That’s why business people love poker and likewise. It’s not a game, but it’s a mental state. The game is not your opponent but yourself. You can never beat your opponent if you are not in the center of your own internal universe. That’s the greatest mistake people make – they think they can lie, bluff and be deceit about their actions. But no, your opponent will sense your fears and triple bet you and take away all your chips. Such is essence of mental game.
There is a loneliness in pursuing a life of an artist. There is a constant internal battle. There are conflicts. There are voices in my head. Everyday I fight within myself to produce my creations. Sometimes I fail, sometimes I succeed. Sometimes I hit or miss. It depends.
I think most artists go through this aspect of fighting against the currents to produce art. Some artists fall into addictions like drugs or drinking. Some artists pursue the muse. For me, it’s just hardcore discipline of the mind. I try to still my mind and set a schedule and no matter what, I have to meet my self imposed deadlines.
I treat it as a profession, although I have no boss to report to, I am the director of my life. I operate as such and if my performance falls short of my standards I am not afraid to press the delete button. I have my own internal compass in what I think is passable.
I am an only child and I work best alone. This solitary life of an artist suits my personality. But I do not believe this path is for everyone. In fact, most people would give up halfway in the journey. I had wanted to give up and run away from this calling. Every time I diverged from my path I end up back here. It’s a strange sensation.
I had learnt over time to go with the flow and not fight again the currents. I go where the currents takes me. But I change my floating path if I know I am about to hit the rocks.
I know I am about the hit the rocks recently, and I had decided to change my pathway. I feel much better knowing I had formulated a contingency plan to save my sanity before it becomes disrupted.
My work has been affected over the past few weeks but held myself up and forced myself to meet my deadlines. And by doing that I realized how much battles I had been facing on so much fronts and I have to withdraw from unnecessary battles to refocus on key ones.
I found my hope in the last moments of my despair. I realized that no knights will rescue me. All I have to do is believe in hope again, and my knights will appear from around the world to serve my wishes, along with the countless of thousands of minions out there.
These are my internal revelations as an artist and I believe I am destined for more to come and my journey has only barely started and I am not about to end my true path to becoming who I am, without any external influences on my life. As a result of which I had decided I will go solo on this journey without any reliance on any organization.
I will be the director of my productions and my life. Everyone else reports to me. That’s all it is. And this is what it means to be an artist to me – to be the director of your life.
As of this year April, I decided to pursue my artistry on a full time basis. There are doubts and fears, I was afraid. I was letting go of the old life I had before. But there was always something lacking in my life that I was running from. And I knew I wasn’t cut out for one fixed role. As I don’t feel comfortable working in just one medium for prolonged periods of time, I had to diversify my art forms. I decided to do these three things: write, act and dance.
As what Steven Pressfield said, you can divide your life into two once you turn pro – life before turning pro, and life after turning pro. I truly agree. Before I turned professional in my artistry, I was living a shadow life. A life of a shadow drama. I was running away from my true calling, from my drive to create. I was focused on the numbers, climbing the career ladder, doing businesses that brought me materialistic objects but no comfort to my soul. If you ask me, I regret running from my artistry for so long. I was hiding from it. I was denying it. I was trying to be a part time pro. But there is no such thing. It is a decision – to be professional or not to be professional. There is no in-between.
In my quest to turn pro, I sought for mentors. I read thecreativepenn.com and followed her books like a religion. I revised Robert Greene books. I read everything I could to ready myself for the climb ahead. I am in it for the long haul. I gave myself a time line of five years to make it or break it. If I do not make it by the end of five years, I will go back to my career, save up, and try again.
After equipping myself sufficiently with knowledge and putting security back up plans measures in place, I started my life of turning pro:
Firstly, I decided to get my full fledge website http://thescarletqueen.com up and running. I had for years, imagined about this website which was not in existence. With the will of my imagination, I brought it forth to the world. That website will contain my finished artistry. This blog will be the documentation of the process (behind the scenes). I needed to maintain this blog at averral.com to still my mind and detach from my creations.
Secondly, I started my patreon account. Patreon allows fans to become patrons of the artist. For it to work, monthly rewards have to be given out. I decided to do more for the rewards, I will record an addition of: a video, an audio and release my draft writings for my fans to see before their publication. So far, it’s working out well. I am glad that now technology allows artists to connect with fans instantly.
Thirdly, I sent myself for counseling, dancing and acting classes. Most professional actors consult a counselor to bring out their best performances. I signed up for three dance performance teams. When my character Risque started to control my life, as I was unable to snap out of character; I consulted an acting coach. He said my character outgrew my personality. I have to develop my own personality and balance out my character Risque. What is unique to your own personality that Risque doesn’t have? He asked. After a week or so, I succeeded in finding the differentiation factor between myself and Risque, and it’s truly humorous. All I have to do after filming Risque or Cheryl right now is to watch comedy. I just had to laugh and be happy to cheer myself up. My default mood is cheerful. That’s how I get back to my own personality after an intense performance.
Fourthly, I found an editor and writing buddy. We work and send each other our drafts and communicate via email almost daily. It’s like going to work, instead of emailing clients or colleagues, I am communicating with my editor and buddy on my work in progress and my mental state. Mental state is crucial in writing the best pieces. I entered myself for the national poetry and short story competition (which I both lost). I was never good at winning competitions anyway.
I resumed rewriting the Red Hourglass, which I had been writing on and off over four years. But this time, I was determined to complete it for year end publication. I set the publication date as 30th October. With a deadline, there is no excuse. As writing a novel day to night for about ten hours a day can be extremely boring, I started writing something else fun on the side – Butterfly, which has a more erotic twist to it. It’s my entertainment. I find it easy to write that, compared to the large task of writing a novel. I would write Butterfly during my breaks. I decided to turn it into a little novella as I see potential in this work.
Lastly, I set a schedule of what I have to produce by the end of every month. My current schedule goes like this:
1. Four YouTube videos a month
2. One Private Patreon video
3. One Private Patreon Risque audio
4. Releasing of Butterfly drafts for Patreon
5. Writing/editing Red Hourglass about 2 – 8 hours a day, 5 days a week
6. Dance classes about three times a week
7. Counselor / Acting Coach when needed
I spend my remaining time replying to fan mails, watching videos of dance performances, and thinking what to film, write or create for my future books/videos.
Since turning pro, I wake up before my alarm. My life is restored of it’s meaning. I no longer procrastinate or fear of becoming who I really am. I learnt over time to accept I have kinky desires that are unmet. I am not afraid to speak up and act upon my convictions. I stand by my artistic creations and take responsibility for them. I no longer care about what the people around me think about my creations, they are a separate entity from me. I am who I am, my creations are just creations. I wake up daily, thinking about the truth love and beauty I am restoring to this world, and that I am a vessel who has dedicated her life to the pursuit of art.
My life after turning pro is beautiful, it’s sublime.
The sacrifice ?
I know my old life has to go. I let go of my business and my staff. I reduced my expenditure and leisure time. I put more time into my work compared to before. I no longer seek for distractions like playing games or facebooking. Old people in my life disappeared as new ones appeared. New friends and fans who help me to achieve my artistic goals.
If given the choice, I would have turned pro earlier.
I highly recommend Steven Pressfield book, Turning Pro.