Friday, January 13, 2017
What I've Gained (And Lost) As A Writer
In 2011, I started blogging part time as a hobby. It was cathartic to write about menopause and middle age angst, and after a few short months, I was hooked. The blog led to a book, which then led to additional writing opportunities with online sites. When people ask me what I do now for a living, it feels good to tell them I'm a writer. I never felt comfortable saying this before until I was able to supplement our family income by getting paid to do something I love.
As with any career, writing has its ups and downs. In most cases, it's a slow start in the beginning (unless you're one of those rare entities who becomes a rockstar author overnight with your first book) before the publication acceptances roll in. A writer has to have the patience of Job in order to survive in the world of publishing.
I've noticed many changes in my life since the day I wrote my very first blog post. Although there have been plenty of bumps along the way in my career, the gains far outweigh the losses:
INCOME: When I worked a regular job, I had regular income that I could count on for my monthly expenses. My income from writing is sporadic at best----it's feast or famine. Some months the book royalties and article sales keep me afloat comfortably, while there are other times when I'm not sure I can afford the "good" dog food brand. Those are the beans and rice days, but I still prefer this lifestyle over scrubbing someone else's toilet. It's a wonder I don't have PTSD after working in some of the houses I cleaned.
SLEEP: Like many writers, I have unusual sleeping hours. Insomnia perches on the side of my bed like a restless magpie chattering away ideas from my muse. These words become a fever in my head that I cannot ignore until the last sentence has been saved on my laptop. The end result is that I'm often tired and look disheveled, but naps are totally acceptable for writers. And lack of sleep also justifies the amount of money I spend on coffee.
EATING HABITS: I loved cooking for my family when they were all here at the same time. Homemade stews and roasts; fresh vegetables, hearty casseroles and creamy pastas. We ate well. But the kids grew older, moved out, and our schedules changed. Writing takes priority now over the hours I once spent in the kitchen. The microwave has become my best friend, along with Chinese delivery. The good news is that I'm still getting my daily allotment of vegetables from pizza toppings, plus staying healthy one Gummy Bear Vitamin at a time.
JOB ENVIRONMENT: Writing is often a lonely career. It's just me and the blank computer screen. I love being my own boss, but at times I miss the camaraderie of coworkers. Instead, I have a son who pokes his head into my office every fifteen minutes to remind me that there is nothing to eat in the refrigerator, and a husband who asks fifty questions when I hand him the electric bill.
Luckily, I've met dozens of writers online in various social media groups and have formed my own special tribe of friends. In many ways, we're like a close nit group of coworkers in side by side cubicles. We share the same boss----our muse----and have each other's back when writer's block rears its ugly head, threatening our job security. We also share virtual cups of coffee while we bitch about our kids and the amount of calories there are in a single glass of wine.
WEIGHT: Sitting at my computer for 12 hours a day has taken a toll on my body. My butt has become the shape of the chair that I sit on, and my stomach is doing double duty as a kangaroo pouch. It's also a crumb catcher when I eat at my desk. I need one of those treadmills that holds a laptop so that I can run and work at the same time. Dangle a piece of bacon on a hook in front of me and I'll run even faster. I may never be thin again, but at least I'll be able to outrun most of the joggers in my neighborhood, especially if the scent of bacon is in the air.
TIME MANAGEMENT: I've become very selfish with my time since I started writing. In the past, whenever one of my kids needed assistance with homework or a ride to their after school activities, I dropped whatever I was doing to help them. Now that they're older, I'm able to step back and let them handle things on their own. If I'm in the middle of a writing project and someone asks me for a favor, I tell them they'll have to take a number and wait. I hate being interrupted when I'm trying to write, and am known to turn off my phone so that I can detach from the real world in order to concentrate on the new one I'm creating with words. Sometimes though, my need for "me-time" isn't just for writing. I'm a sucker for social media and am easily hypnotized by the siren song of Facebook. But hey, I can always tell people I'm studying behavioral psychology for an upcoming article, and social media is rife with unusual behavior. I can pretty much use my writing career as an excuse to get out of doing anything. "You're having a birthday party for your Shih Tzu on Saturday? I'm so sorry, but I have a writing deadline to meet this weekend."
CONFIDENCE: This has always been tricky for me, and was pretty much nonexistent before I became a writer. Years ago, I won several awards for my high sales volume with Avon, but honestly, it wasn't that much of a challenge to sell miracle creams and lipsticks. Women are always hungry for any product that will make them look younger and feel sexy. Writing is the hardest profession I've ever attempted, because I'm at the mercy of my muse, and my success is based on my readership. There are plenty of days when I don't feel like writing, but I push myself to do it. If I don't write, I feel hollow inside. My career is an emotional yo-yo---the days I'm able to sell my work to topnotch literary sites, I'm ready to bust out a bottle of champagne. But with success there are also failures, and I take every one of my rejections to heart. During those times, I want to hide in a blanket fort and eat an undisclosed amount of Hershey's Kisses to soothe my bruised ego.
For the most part, the highs of my writing career outweigh the lows, and I'm happier than I've ever been before. Seeing an article that I've written go viral means far more to me than a first place trophy for sales in cosmetics. After all, face creams make us look great on the surface, but a good book touches us deep down in our souls.
Choosing a career as a professional writer has been worth every penny.....kangaroo pouch and all.