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Please Don’t Pity Me

20 Sep 2010

I enjoy writing. I enjoy living in my own little world and translating the experience into words. Even when the words don’t come easy, I still enjoy it. I would write even if no one reads my words. And there are thousands of other people out there similar to me. But that’s where the similarity ends. Some fantasize about becoming the next J.K. Rowling and building a tower like Scrooge McDuck’s to store their wealth. Most just dream about earning enough to quit the day job, which, for many, is getting a “very nice deal.” When I tell these writers I don’t share their dream of quitting the day job, they don’t believe me. They think I’m lying to myself to make my situation tolerable. After all, if they hate their day jobs, so must I.

Admittedly, I joke about the day job all the time. I even refer to it as the Clark Kent gig, or a job that help pays the bills but it’s not what you really want to do. Thus, I can’t blame people for assuming I hate my job. I don’t. I enjoy it. In fact, I’m something of a workaholic. I work long hours because I never say no to my boss and missing a deadline isn’t an option for me–and I’m slightly anal retentive. I solve problems, which I love doing, and these problems can be technical, financial, or operational. My work isn’t routine. Some problems are solved within seconds, some require year-long projects with resources drawn from five countries. Because I deliver results, my boss never takes issue with my dress, my anti-social tendencies, my gripes about having to do the MBA the company is paying for (the boss tells me it’s for my own good, but he’s not the one sacrificing his weekends to do homework), or the fact that I come in any time between 5AM and 9AM. Also, I get paid for it–and paid well. I can afford to indulge my love for Apple, Tag Heuer, and Kal Gajoum.

In addition to a steady paycheck and the all-important health and dental benefits that include regular appointments with the masseuse, the day job provides me with material for my writing. No, my stories are not embellished accounts of my life. The day job provides me with awesome research material. I have flown in helicopters and private jets. I attend black-tie business and charity galas–and even organized one or two. I deal with millionaires and billionaires, many of whom are nothing like the ones in the HP universe, and pick up great tips from them. I get to travel with an unlimited expense account, allowing me to try restaurants, hotels, and attractions I would think twice about if I had to use my own money. I even had the opportunity to talk to DEA agents and the like in the course of my work. So much research material that I didn’t have to Google to obtain. That’s awesome.

If you’re a writer who dreams of quitting your day job, I wish you well. If you’re a writer who doesn’t need a job, full-time or part-time, to supplement your income, congratulations on living your dream. Please don’t assume it’s also mine.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. AztecLady permalink
    24 Sep 2010 5:37 PM

    You know, I sorta have gotten the impression, through the years, that you both like your job and your life–which means I’m not surprised by this post.

    Except… do you really get that much incredulity about your priorities?

    • 24 Sep 2010 8:56 PM

      Oh, yes. For many authors, writing is their passion, sometimes their only passion, and they can’t imagine another writer whose main passion isn’t writing. And there are all these stereotypes about the big, bad corporate world and how it stifles your imagination and other drivel. Recently, there was a discussion on a writers’ loop and one author essentially asked me if I was for real when I said I like my corporate job. I wasn’t expecting that because she’s a category romance author whose heroes are businessmen who love their jobs and fall for their secretaries administrative assistants. When I mentioned that, her response was…well, sexist, and I decided to set that Yahoo! group to digest.

  2. AztecLady permalink
    25 Sep 2010 6:27 PM

    This, I’m sure, will come back to bite me (particularly because I’m not sure I can articulate my thinking properly, but what the hell), but I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

    You are not only good at your job, you are successful–financially as well as professionally. Your financial success as a writer is not paramount to you.

    Could it be that, at least for some of those full-time authors who live in dread of falling ill because they have no insurance and their budget is so tight not even an amoeba could slip through, there is an element of… not quite envy, not quite resentment, perhaps jealousy, mixed in with the incredulity?

    Could it be that even with a day job they would still face the fear of getting sick without insurance; that they would still live on a budget so tight they can barely breathe, etc., so that they dream of living off what they both do best and love doing, i.e., writing?

    • 26 Sep 2010 11:49 AM

      Why would your comment bite you in the ass? I love reasoned debate.

      I don’t think it’s jealousy because they all cringe about the 60-80 hours I put into the day job. For me, that’s normal. For them, that’s masochistic.

      I know there are plenty of authors who scrape by because every once in a while in one of the author loops, someone will say they have to cut their writing time because they need to find a job because royalties have dried up or someone solicits funds because of a medical emergency. One poor woman had to drop off completely because she couldn’t afford internet access. Every time one of these messages pop up, I want to give them personal finance advice or ask for more details to help them…use the system to their advantage, but I always bite my tongue (figuratively) because I’m sure they have tried everything and don’t need my interference.

      However, over the years (yes, this is something I have encountered many, many times) most of the authors who express disbelief about my enjoyment of the day job are white-collared professionals. CPAs, IT analysts, and the like. These women, unless they are completely incompetent or were victims of the recent recession, shouldn’t have any issues supporting themselves. I think their dislike of their jobs or formers jobs is a matter of expectations.

      Someone once told me working in an office wasn’t like what she saw in TV. I wondered if she let Working Girl or Wall Street influence her career decisions and got scared. Out of curiosity, I bought a couple of her books. One was about a girl/woman who ran her business into the ground (not her fault even though she never bothered to verify the financial statements prepared by her crooked employee *head*desk*) and had to marry an uber-rich hero. The second was about a girl/woman who worked in a soul-deadening cubicle job and ended up marrying the boss.

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