Friday, June 7, 2013

Obstacle Not Barrier


by Sue Ann Jaffarian
 
Like many writers, I have a full-time day job. But here’s the thing. Even though I really enjoy my job as a corporate paralegal and work for a wonderful law firm with lovely people, I’d give my left nut (providing I had one to give) to leave it behind and throw myself into my writing full time, all the time.  And the older I get, the more I’m willing to give up those phantom nuts to make it happen.
 
Whenever folks ask me why I don’t quit my day to  write full time, my pat and honest answer is: Because I like to eat and have a roof over my head. And let’s not forget health care benefits and a 401k.  I’m single, my sole support, and no one has ever left me money, except for when I was a waitress in a pizza joint, and even then the tips were either stingy or stolen by the other waitresses. I make money writing, but not enough to support myself.
 
This past weekend someone introduced me as one of the most prolific writers they know. And it’s true, I am prolific. Basically, I write two novels a year – one a year for two different publishers – as well as the occasional novella and short story, all while holding down a day job. And I research, write, and rewrite every damn word myself. I also do most of my own PR and marketing. This is one of the reasons you don’t find me at many conferences or on the road doing book tours. 

But no applause or gasps of awe, please, because I am not alone. Most of the published writers I know also hold down day jobs. It's the norm, not the exception.
 
Warning, rant alert! 
 
It really annoys me when budding writers tell me they don’t have time to write. Then guess what? You don’t want it bad enough. It’s not a goal that burns in your belly. It’s a “maybe one day” kind of thing with them. And we all know “maybe one day” dreams don’t usually come to fruition. They wither and die on the vine, forgotten until it's too late. 
 
I know writers with kids who write during nap time or while waiting in car pool lanes. Writers who sneak out to their cars to write on lunch break. Writers who write long after their household is in bed. Writers who write while their friends and family are out having fun. They get the job done, no matter what stands in their way.
 
The drive to write is primal if you’re a born writer. Looming deadlines just crank it up a few notches.  Even if I didn’t have contracts waiting to be fulfilled, I’d still be writing like a monkey on crack. It’s who I am. It's what I want. The day job is just an obstacle to hoist my fat ass over, not an insurmountable barrier keeping me from the finish line.
 
I’ve been at my current paralegal position 8 years next week. During that time  I have written 14 novels, 1 novella and 6 short stories, and no, none have been written on the job. I get up between 5 and 5:30 each day, spend 20 minutes taking care of various chores, then I’m at the keyboard writing until it's time to shower and go to my day job. During the week I write 2-3 hours a day. On weekends that time is at least doubled. Is it any wonder my home has an abandoned look and my eyes are glassy. Yet I still have time to go out with friends and relax in front of TV. It’s all in how you prioritize and plan and how much you want it.
 
Since benefactors and sponsors are not beating on my door, and since no one seems interested in purchasing my fictional left nut, and since I just entered my 60s, my plan is to retire in a few years and turn my full attention to my writing, providing my brain isn’t fried. 

I hope I won’t be bored.

15 comments:

Kathy Keating said...

You make a great point, Sue Ann. I will admit to being inherently lazy, but more than happy to benefit from your wonderful work ethic!

Susan C Shea said...

You will never be bored, Sue Ann, and you're amazing. I agree that people who really, truly intend to be writers make it happen. And if they're working, they do what you do - aim for and plan so they get to the day they can do it full time. More power to you!

J. F. Constantine said...

Right on, Sue Ann! Oh, and Write on, Sue Ann! :)

Meredith Cole said...

You're right about the drive to write! I've written when I've worked part-time, full-time and when I've been a stay-at-home mom. Perhaps I have not been prolific during every stage of my life (and certainly never as prolific as you, Sue Ann!), but I've certainly never stopped writing...

Catriona McPherson said...

You're so right. "I don't have time" is so dismissive of what other people find time to do!

Chris said...

Sue Ann, I am not one to type LOL, but I will cop to snort-laughing when I came across your third sentence.

I love that you mentioned none of your writing has been done on the job. I feel like I should have said that, too, in case my corporate overlords are watching...

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Chris, a few years ago I was accused of writing my books on the job! And it wasn't because someone thought they saw me doing it. It was because one of the big wigs didn't believe I could be as prolific as I am unless I was writing on their time. I nearly leapt across the desk. Instead, I calmly challenged management to look into my computer usage and check out the claim before they threw around accusations. I've never heard another word.

christopher J. Lynch said...

Great story Sue. I too have a day job - a damn good one as a matter of fact. So good that I will be able to retire at the ripe old age of 55. Guess what? Then I can write full time and have no financial worries. Besides helping me get to that magic moment when I no longer have to be a slave to the alarm clock, my day job has also given me the $$$ I need to promote my work. I spent $2k to produce my video trailer - which now has over a thousand hits on You Tube. I couldn't have done that if I was scraping by wondering where my next meal came from.

Craig Faustus Buck said...

Sue Ann, I'm lucky enough to be able to write full-time and it still takes me two years to finish a book. If you need a left nut to give, you can have mine if you can speed me up to your pace.

Diane Vallere said...

I once told my dad my strategy was to make less money every year so retirement wouldn't come as such a shock. I'm starting to think the same principles would apply to FT writing! But then just yesterday a work situation gave me the concept for a future book, so there's that. Lots to consider.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Back when I had a licensed care home and lived with and was the primary care giver to 6 developmentally disabled women, I managed to write two books a year. I wrote after they left for their day programs in the a.m. and while I was doing the laundry (which I did every day). I had lots of interruptions. At noon I quit and tended to other necessary chores. The gals came home around 3 and my attention was on them. I did do some editing in bed. If you want to do it bad enough, you make the time.

Pamela Samuels Young said...

Sue Ann!
Great article! Took the words right out of my mouth! Drives me nuts when people claim they don't have time to write, just means they don't want it. Met a woman recently who is a stay-at-home mom with ONE 16-year-old who says she'll write after her son goes off to college. Yeah right. Writers write!

But gotta add that your add a machine! I aspire to your production schedule!

Pamela Samuels Young said...

Forgive my typos! Tried to say you are a machine! Prolific indeed! Gotta go write!

MsALWalker said...

Thanks Sue Ann! I never thought I'd say this, but. . . I want to write like a monkey on crack.

BWKnister said...

Meredith talks about being prolific. I see a lot of evidence that turning out more work does not always translate into better work. Yes, people who rely on writing to eat must learn to "produce." But how many books have you read, written by pros, that seem to be competent but not very inspired?