Friday, January 13, 2017

What I've Gained (And Lost) As A Writer

 
    For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to write. Most of what I published in the early days was poetry, but those poems didn't put food on the table. I had to set aside my writing aspirations and focus on making money instead. I've worked all sorts of odd jobs----telephone operator, dental assistant, house cleaner, baker, and a sales rep for Avon. Each job helped feed my family, but none of them fed my soul.

     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.





41 comments:

  1. Very honest and accurate, Marcia. I also am thankful for the great community of people (like you!) I've met online. It helps what can be otherwise solitary situation. I've also often thought that it seems God doesn't want us to be intellectual and healthy. The harder we work on the former, the worse it seems to be on our bodies. My daughter and I used to joke that it only seems fair that she could "study her muffin top off"... unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way!

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    1. Right?? I wish I lost a pound for every piece I publish!!

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  2. I loved this Marcia! So heartfelt. I would love my blog and writing to be more and maybe make some $$ from it..but I've come the realization that what I have is enough. I've learned that I just love to write and if no one reads what I write it is ok! (well I would like at least one person besides me to read it) I am doing what I always wanted to do and that is "enough". Some people never get to do that!

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    1. Exactly! I think I write more for myself than anything. Getting paid is nice, of course, but I cannot imagine not being able to express myself through writing. I'd go nuts!

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  3. Awesome. Thanks for sharing your journey.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to read about it!

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  4. Ah, so true, Marcia! I love this post. You've really summed up a writer's journey, well YOUR writer's journey. It's amazing how similar we writers are though in our concerns, anxieties, joys...

    You're a success story,Marcia and a great example of balancing family and work and earning a living at your craft.

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    1. Awwww thank you so much for the kind words and encouragement, Lisa!

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  5. Spot on!
    Shih tzu birthday party?! Pfff. Now if it was a pug . . .

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    1. Oh heck yeah---if it was a PUG, I would be there!!!

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  6. This was an honest assessment of living the life of a writer. I haven't tried to sell much as a writer but haven't given up yet.

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    1. You are a very good writer, Stephen. You tell the best stories. I think you should definitely try to sell your work.

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  7. Ain't that the truth sister! It's definitely a feast or famine existence!

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  8. Great summation, Marcia. You have always been an inspiration to me and know that I can count on you for support as well. I love your style of writing and wish you even more success. I wish I could donate more time to writing but it has to take a back seat to my brick and mortar businesses. Some day.......hopefully.

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    1. Thank you so much! You are a very busy woman, Carol. But you always seem to find time to write your amazing blog posts. Keep up the good work! Once retirement comes, you'll have plenty of time to write.

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  9. Whether writing for pay as you do or just writing to stay sane as I do there's no doubt that finding online blogging friends who understand what it's like to put your words out there is essential. They lift you up on your bad days and celebrate with you on your good days.

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  10. Marcia, I have always wanted to write too... a different type of genre than you write as I am not as funny as you are... lol... But I totally understand what you say about a feeling you get from writing. As you know when I first started blogging it was to get my voice back that I had lost... the more I wrote, the more I opened up... even if no one ever read another thing I wrote, I would write ... You are doing great, keep writing xox

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    1. Thank you for always being so supportive, Launna. Love you!

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  11. As part of your writing tribe, I'd be lost without you chica. Hope 2017 can be our collaboration Year!

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    1. Awwww.....we have such a great circle of friends firm ERMA. I do hope we can do a collaboration for the next conference!

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  12. If writing feeds your soul that is good, many of us neglect our souls and focus on stuff, they want more stuff so they work and buy stuff they could live without but we cannot in my opinion live with a staved soul we will be going through the motions and not really living

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  13. -----Hello, Sweets,
    Being a writer FULLTIME? OMGggosh, this has always been my goal, my dream, my heart....but I work fulltime at another job I DO NOT LIKE whatsoever...((SIGH)) because my writing pays nada. ( oh, it does help with my insanity and madness, though!)
    So happy you can be a fulltime writer. :)
    I do believe this is what all serious writer's desire...
    but they (WE) are not sure how to get it.
    ---thank you for continually inspiring me to become more. xxx

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    1. Thank you----you have always beens so kind and supportive---I really appreciate you <3 I feel like I've waited forever to be able to write full time. It doesn't pay like a regular 9-5 job but that's ok----it really does feed my soul and keep me SANE.

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  14. Like I have said for several years you are a talented and gifted writer. Doing what you love which is writing well it does not get any better than that.

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    1. Awwww......thanks so much, Daniel. You've been a fabulous follower of the blog for such a long time---I really do appreciate you!

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  15. It is good to know that you have achieved what you want to call it as a full time job. I'm sure lot of hard work behind that. It's a feel good factor to do the job we love most, it's a blessing.

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  16. I am visiting your blog for the first time... To be frank, it is your blog title that drew my attention.. And this post is remarkable.. A quick foresight about how life could be if you become a professional writer... All the best ma'm... Keep writing and enjoying the process!

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  17. Excellent post, Marcia - you fully deserve your success. I can fully identify with the ups and downs of a writer. After mainly producing non-fiction & general interest stuff, over the last year or so I've also started to dabble with short-story fiction - a few weeks ago, my story won 2nd prize in a national writing competition (£25/$30 dollar prize)and I was elated as it was the first bit of fiction for which I've been recognised.

    Best wishes for continued success in 2017.

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  18. I so hope that this year brings you (and all of us) more steadiness in writing... but I'm so with you that being able to admit to being a writer is HUGE (although I often do not get paid for it, I do now occasionally admit to being one). Boom to getting our veggies on pizza and to feeding our souls because that matters most.

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  19. Very honest blog post. Your freedom and your success count more. Best wishes and further success to you!

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  20. I think if you love what you do, you don't really mind the irregularities it comes with. Yeah, I also earn a little less than I used to when I was in the corporate but I love what I do. And at the end of the day, despite being tired, I'm happy. :)

    Cheers to us!

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