Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Contest Results and Working in the Real World

First, I'm pleased to announce that 3 students aced Miss Maggie's Civil War quiz: Debra Eisert, Mary Chamberlain, and Helen Delano.  Since we only had 3 star pupils, I've decided they each should win a free book.  Look here for Contest 2 around the middle of February.

Working in the Real World

One of the first pieces of advice a novice writer hears from the pros is "Don't quit your day job."  So what did I do last month?  I quit my day job.

I've quit at least 4 jobs in my lifetime, yet all for non-writing-related reasons.  This last time was because the job was effecting my health.  Sometimes I've quit because I decided I can't work for people better suited to be the bad guys in my books.  If you've read By Blood Possessed or any of my short stories set in offices, you know how I feel about the bad guys of corporate America.

Still, I'm not by nature a quitter.  I've had a slew of other jobs, all temporary for one reason or another.  Altogether I've been a retail clerk, school teacher, National Park guide, receptionist, data processor, and done every ilk of accounting, filing and other administrative jobs.  Oh, and I've been a proofreader, too. My finest moment was proofreading a brochure for a sex therapy lecture given by Dr. Ruth herself.

My mother would say I still haven't settled down.  Me?  I think I'm the kind of writer who needs to glean experiences from different sources, then move on.  Though, frankly, the need to pay pills tends to make me wait until I'm laid off or the job makes me physically ill or disgusted enough to quit.

I wrote By Blood Possessed while I was unemployed.  Hang My Head and Cry was written mostly in the hiatuses between temp agency jobs.  Poison to Purge Melancholy came together in the idle months before I took my last job.  Book 4, Fear Itself, was written while employed, but at the time, I had a boss who understood that I have a vocation outside of office work.

At the moment, I'm not grieving over the loss of my job.  With all the snow this winter, and the fact that my home parking spot is off of an alley that never gets plowed, it's just as well I don't have a compelling reason leave the house.

Yet I know, eventually, I'll get out there and start looking for gainful employment again.  Not only do I have the need to pay bills, but this writer, anyway, can't write in a vacuum.  It's not simply a matter of needing to observe human nature--I can go sit in a mall food court or ride trains in and out of the city to do that.  The thing is, with each position I've had, I've been thrown in with a diverse group of individuals, from all walks of life.  Some love their jobs.  The majority, at best, only like their jobs.  All are there because they must be or lose their livelihoods, and for some, their healthcare.  All have different motives for needing to keep their jobs.  A workplace, for a writer, is an encyclopedia of human psychology.

So when I say "Don't quit your day job" to a novice writer, I'm not merely commenting on the reality of most writers not being able to make a living from published works.  I'm saying don't take yourself out of the real world.  Your writing will suffer.


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