Sunday, January 17, 2010

Writing for a living

I had one of those head in the hands moments yesterday, where I was overwhelmed by the desperation to have the whole novel-writing situation turn into something real. I have those moments regularly but what set me off on this one was is the state of my house. It really needs to be cleaned. And I'm not talking the Martha-Stewart-I-really-must-dust-the-baskets kind of cleaning, but more like I-can't-see-through-the-shower-door-for-all-the-soap-scum kind of cleaning.

My house used to be cleaner than this, for those six glorious months that my full-time job was writing. Every day, I would write for four or five hours while my children were at school, leaving an hour or two before they got home for real life stuff, like cleaning and cooking and laundry. Which meant that I could focus on my family and myself (hobbies and reading and more writing) on the evenings and weekends. I've never been happier than that time.

I know I was extraordinarily lucky to have the opportunity, and it was only because we had just moved from England to Texas. My husband had a job that paid enough to make it on his salary for a while (we have rarely had two incomes due to college, maternity, etc. and as a result, are very good at living within our means). And I had such a specialized field (Food Research & Development) that I knew it was unlikely the crappy economy would cough up a job for me in my new city. It made sense for me to finally put my fingers where my mouth was and write the novel I've been talking about for almost two decades. So I did.

But it was too good to last. Ballet lessons and rising food costs and children who keep outgrowing shoes meant that I needed to get a job. Now that I work about four days a week (including Saturdays), something has to give. And it isn't going to be the writing. Result: dirty house. And empty fridge. And thank you notes that are a month overdue. And abandoned craft projects. And dead plants.

I think every writer has the dream that they could give up the day job and write for a living. But I think everyone's definition of that is different, dependent on their lifestyle. Honestly, if I could make ten or twenty thousand a year, I could write for a living. There is a lot I'm willing give up to be able to do my dream job.

So hear that, Universe? I don't have big wants. It doesn't have to be a six-figure deal (not that I would turn it down, of course). Anything you want to send my way would be great. I'd appreciate it. Thanks.

What about you? Knowing the reality of the publishing world and what it pays, how likely is it that you could give up the day job if you got a book deal?


  1. I write, knowing that I'll likely never be able to quit my day job. It doesn't matter though- it's something I just have to do.

    Keep plugging away at it- you never know just when the universe will surprise you!

  2. I am still in school (almost out of college), and I don't even dare think about giving up my job (when I have it) to write full time, even if, by some miracles, I do get a 6-figure deal (I can always dream!). I'm a cautious person and need the financial security a day job offers.

  3. You already have a full time job - MUM!

    Don't beat yourself up about housework - those things sort themselves out - within reason!

    Keep your toilet and your kitchen hygenic and let the rest of the universe worry about the other things. What do your kids need more: a happy and fulfilled mum or a shower door you can see thorugh?

    Day/after school care proved too expensive for me to work when I came to NZ. The deal is I have to get somewhere with it!

    Don't givce up and especially not for the sake of scum!

  4. Typos and stream of conciousness, lol....have to get somewhere with the writing, not the day care! And, don't give up! :)

  5. Stephanie - you are so right. I'm very keen on letting the universe take care of things. I do believe the saying 'What's for you won't go by you.'

    Sandy - probably very wise! Even a six-figure deal wouldn't set you up for the rest of your days anymore. Be like a football star and have a law career to fall back on.

    Rachel - your situation sounds a lot like mine. And now that I have two kids and am older, I totally don't care about the shower door. I notice it, but it doesn't keep me awake at night. In my twenties, I would have been up late cleaning it. Much mellower now.