Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Working to Write

Paradoxy has been dark for many weeks over the holidays -- but not necessarily because of the holidays. My news is: I've accepted a full-time editorial job in the education industry. And what does this mean for my fiction-writing schedule -- or my blogging schedule -- you might ask?

Got to get up early in the mornin'
It's an interesting conundrum: how to make a living while investing in your fiction writing career. I personally know one young adult author who, after signing a three-book contract with an excellent Y/A publisher, is back to looking for full-time work. The common advice: Don't quit your day job...just yet applies even to writers with a signed contract in hand. According to lit agent Jessica Faust, fewer than ten percent of fiction writers make a living solely by writing books.
I was lucky: After I left my job in journalism, I had enough contract and teaching piecework to get by while I wrote one novel and drafted the second (which took roughly just a bit over a year). That open year feels like the running start you take before making a huge leap. I've got traction. I fully intend to keep writing fiction even while I'm working full time -- but I also accept that the pages may come a lot slower. 

Here's the good news:
*Holding a day job might give you cool ideas to use in your fiction. Interpersonal relations, real world conflict, the kinds of issues that might not cross your solitary writing desk otherwise.
*Holding a day job takes the pressure off. You might not feel quite so desperate, or send out that query before your novel is ready.
*Money. It doesn't buy happiness. But it can sure purchase a piece of it.


How do you do it? 
So how, my bloggy buddies, do you deal with bringing home the bacon while you're penning your Great American Novel? Are you starving in a garret, or getting up at 4:30 to toss off a few pages before you hit the commute? Or, like Wallace Stevens or William Carlos Williams, do you just compose poems in your head on the train home in the evening? I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

PS: Henceforth, I'll be back to blogging here twice a week.

18 comments:

  1. I have the fortune to work full-time from home (making my own schedule, so to speak). But I also have two kiddos. I usually write when they're in school for an hour or so. Time varies depending upon what's going on. It is a very sloooowwww process for me, though. Congrats on the job!

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  2. I used to take an hour long bus ride to work and found I could write in a notebook pretty easily. It was two hours a day of built in writing time. Made the ride go faster too. Nowadays I don't work outside the home, so I'm able to sneak in writing just about anytime. Still a challenge (for me) to get a novel written in a year, though.

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  3. I've definitely heard that--very few authors make enough $$ to support themselves. Best to you as you take on new challenges; keep writing! :) Happy 2012.

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  4. I always like reading your blog, Gail, we seem to be fairly in sync with our experiences but you're a few leaps ahead of me.
    Glad to read about your new employment, I hope that it's interesting and compelling work for you.
    To put it as diplomatically as possible... I'm fortunate enough to still be employed but I don't always fully appreciate it. Working definitely detracts from my energy to write and even though I've mapped out quite a bit of where I want my current project to go, I'm still struggling with focus and energy after long days of work. January is slated to be another 'big push' month for me, where I launch myself into the abyss and attempt to fill it with words!

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  5. Gail, congrats on your new job! I know you'll find a way to keep writing because your writing is that good. John Grisham penned his first novel on the train after long hours working as an attorney. I think things worked out okay for him. Good luck!

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  6. Fewer than ten percent... That is a sad statistic... I want to be one of those fewer than ten percent!

    Anyway, big congratulations on your job!

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  7. Congrats on your new job! It's hard, and you're right, pages come slower, but they can still come. I'm mostly an early morning person, but I also try to take advantage of the hour after the kids go to bed.

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  8. The job sounds great, Gail, and maybe you'll end up with the best of both worlds - time to write and blog, and an insight into the publishing end!

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  9. Congratulations on the new job, Gail! I think some of the best stuff comes early in the morning, when there's no time to procrastinate (and you still have energy to do it). Good for you for determining to still write while working full time!

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  10. Congratulations, Gail! As a stay at home mom, I find it's very important to 1)be diligent about scheduling writing time into the day, and 2)be realistic. Know that you won't get to write as much as you did before, but that you still can reach your goals if you keep moving forward.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  11. Congrats on your job! I wish you well with it!

    I plan to start substitute teaching which might allow me the best of both worlds. I'm hoping!

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  12. Congratulations on your job. I hope you can find time to do it all. While working full time as a lawyer with small kids I find my best writing time is after the kids are in bed from about ten til 1:30 a.m. I got used to much less sleep

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  13. I think another thing having a day job does is that it forces us to do more with our writing time. When the whole day is open, it's easy to procrastinate or take too much time consider changes or wording. When that amount of writing time is cut, suddenly it becomes imperative we accomplish as much as we can in that smaller time. Congrats on the job! I know you'll do well :)

    Angela

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  14. Congratulations on the new job, your statistic is sobering, I think it underlines that most of us write because we must rather than for any (imagined) financial rewards.

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  15. It is definitely hard to balance life between work, children, spouse, household, church, volunteering, and ... writing. But, at least we're not bored!! :)

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  16. Miss your blogging, but I'm glad to hear you are in a good place right now, with a job that's at least writing-related to reinforce your skills even if it's nonfiction. Best of luck and hope you pop back to the blog now and again ;)

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  17. Congratulations on your new job. And congratulations that you got so much done when you were between jobs! I volunteer teach an after-school art club, and I review books for Sacramento Book Review. But I actually think these activities make me more productive as a writer -- and both keep me in touch with my target reading audience.

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  18. Thank you all! I'll have some great news to share next week. In the meantime I'll be tripping around to your blogs, and tomorrow I'll post some tips from my Florida SCBWI conference novel intensive.

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