A few years ago I had an epiphany about one of my life choices. I was a guest on my buddy Keith’s excellent podcast about the creative life, called the Performer’s Podcast.
We had a great conversation, and eventually the talk turned to the question of my writing. Had I ever considered giving up my day job and pursuing creative writing as my career? My answer was illuminating. “I’m not in a position to do that,” I said.
Keith was a bit flummoxed by that response, because, really, I could have decided to give up my day job at any time and just work as a creative writer. But what I meant was that it would mean giving up my house and lifestyle, at least for the foreseeable future, until I sold enough copies of my work to keep afloat financially.
“I guess I’m just too middle-class for that,” I concluded.
Blaming my parents
Then I may have thrown my parents under the bus. A little. Growing up, they didn’t mind me writing, but they always urged me to have some kind of career to “fall back on” in case writing novels turned out to be harder than I thought. Much of my writing “career” has been about feeding my fiction habit when I could after work, or before work, or has been the case the last few years, in the summers when I haven’t been teaching.
This is a good and bad thing. There’s no question, if I was writing full-time, I’d be able to write a lot more. Over the past summer I drafted a new humorous SF story in less than four months. So, I could conceivably write two or maybe even three books a year at that pace. (Probably less, because revision is almost as time-consuming for me as drafting.)
On the other hand, what would I be writing?
There’s an argument to be made that because my writing time is less fulsome – and therefore more precious – that I’m only working on projects I really care about. Novels that drive me mad with their potential. The Fatness was certainly one such project. And even if I had no day job to distract me, it still would have taken me quite a bit of time to write that book. There were just too many demons to slay along the way.
I’ve had a rich and fascinating work life that I can’t regret, particularly since I started teaching. Even if one of my books becomes a huge bestseller and I can afford to give up my job, I don’t know that I’ll really want to. I legit look forward to going to class, to engage with young minds, and to learn from them as much as they learn from me. I know, it’s a cliché, but it is true. Their concerns and enthusiasms make their way into my fiction. If I wasn’t teaching, I don’t know that I would have been able to write The Fridgularity at all.
So, even if I have been working the “Plan B” side of the fence, I have no regrets. Having a job hasn’t stopped me from writing, and maybe, having a job has kept me writing when I might have given up in another universe.
My many universes?
I’ve now published at least five universes, and more are on their way. Check out one in all the usual places online!