Thursday, June 11, 2009

When am I going to get a real job?

I don't think there's a writer out there who hasn't been asked the above question. When this statement was first posed to me, I'll admit, it hurt. At the time I simply smiled and said, "I have a real job. After all, I've published a number of books, they didn't write themselves."

Over the years, that statement has haunted me. I try to remember the source and this person’s fixation on wealth and status. But I often think about the answers I could have given, but didn't for the sake of peace and unity.

Answer #1. Define 'real job.'

Jackie and I probably spend 10 hours a week trying to figure out who the characters are who will people our stories, what they are going to do, what problem will need solving, what theme will be played out against the structure of the story, figuring out setting, locations, time periods, dialogue, plotting, mystery, sexual tension, what goes where and when they fall in love and when they make love. Phew! That's a lot of problem to solve in the course of one book. We also try to write every day, though that doesn't always work out. And when we do write, we have a certain goal to achieve. To me, writing is a job, but a fun one. I look forward to sitting down at the computer and working through my character's problems. I wouldn't do anything else in the world.

Answer #2. Why do I need a 'real job?'

I confess, I'm obsessed with writing. I don't want to do anything else in my life because I can't do anything else in my life.

From the day I found myself at age 13 writing with a flashlight and the covers pulled over my head at midnight when the rest of the house was deeply asleep, and I had school the next day, I knew I was obsessed. I had so much emotion inside me, I had to try to figure it out. I spent hours analyzing why I felt the way I did, and then I started creating imaginary people and spending hours figuring out who they were and why they haunted me. Finally, I realized these imaginary people had stories to tell and I had to tell them

Back then I was deeply afraid to confide in anyone (except my closest friend who also wrote). My first efforts to show my mother ended in a knowing, patronizing look and a comment that I 'would eventually grow up and put this silliness behind me." Her comment hurt so much I cried even though I was nearly 18 at the time and should have had more confidence in myself.

Answer #3. What would I do if I did go out and get a 'real job?'

One of the nice things about writing is that, for the most part, I'm my own boss. I get to work at home, set my own hours, work at my own speed, still be around for family emergencies, have the flexibility of working around my family's schedules, can work at night when and generally write what I want to write. I do not have to report for work at a specified time, listen to co-workers complain about their lives while they don't do their jobs, worry about getting fired, sexual harassment, and jokes I don't understand.

I realize many people cannot afford to work solely at their writing, but must have second jobs to help make ends meet. All I can say to them is, I hope your writing starts making money. If you love writing as much as I do, keep at it so you can quit your 'other' job and concentrate on writing.

My writing depends on my commitment to it. Self-motivation is the key to being a successful writer. Without it, we'll never get published. Any person who is self-employed understands how difficult self-motivation is. The fact that I am motivated is one of the keys that keeps me going. The nice result of that motivation is seeing my name in print and maybe getting a check that will allow me to pay off a few bills.

Answer #4. This is a fill-in-the-blank answer. I don't want a 'real job.' I write because _________________.

We all know what our reasons are.

Why don't I get a 'real job?' Because I have a real job. Just because I don't bring home a regular weekly paycheck or go to an office somewhere else doesn't mean I don't work. I work hard and I'm proud of what I do.

1 comment:

Niambi Brown Davis said...

I don't know what would happen to the "real" job - because when I'm deep into a story, everything else is second place, second fiddle, second string - at least (lol)