Thursday, June 28, 2012

Don't Quit Your Day Job

by Allison Pang

I always find it greatly amusing when people at work find out I'm published. There's the usual questions about how many books I've sold and how I find the time to do it and how did I manage to do it...and then the big one.

"So when are you quitting?"

It's always asked in complete seriousness. And why wouldn't it be? The average person who isn't a heavy reader really only knows the big names - Roberts, King, Meyer, Rowling, etc. The mega-stars of the author world who get massive royalties and movie deals and tie-ins and dancing pool boys.

The realities of the mid-list are much less glamorous, I'm afraid. (Though there is always hope.)

I've heard a number of horror stories over the last several years of enthusiastic young writers who just sold their first book, only to eagerly claim they immediately quit their job so they could write full time...without doing any of the research on how the money got to them. (Not to rehash the math of earlier posts, but...yeah. Those advances usually get chopped and sent out in tiny bits here and there, and your agent will take their cut...and then, that's what you've got.)

It probably goes without saying that before you make any sort of major life or career change, one really should weigh out all the pros and cons. It's not much fun to burn bridges...or to have to eat crow to beg for one's job back a few months later.

But the earlier posts of this week from my fellow word-whores has laid it out pretty accurately. The romanticism of starving artists aside, I *like* having food on my table. But more to the point, I like not having to worry.

Would I like to be able to support myself and my family on my writing alone? Absolutely! I'd love to be a full time writer too - but as Jeffe pointed out, sometimes having all that time equals a lot of wasted chances. I know me well enough to realize I'd probably waste a lot of said writing time farting around on the internet. Or cleaning. Or something equally procrastinatory.  There's an upside to having a limited amount of time to create, if only because you're stuck making the most of it.

Or to put it another way - if my daily goal is 1000 words or 1500 words or whatever, I'd feel a lot better about myself if I managed it in the 2 hours I have. If it took me all day to write that, every day? I'd feel as though I were missing a lot of my life.

Personally, I think Tuck has it pretty solid - he's got a day job that he loves and a writing job that he loves, and if you can swing that, then life is golden.

I'm not quite that lucky, but I did manage to snag a job that pays pretty well, gives me benefits and also allows me flexibility - I can work from home if I need to on some days, I can leave early to get kids, I can come in a little late. And no one cares, as long as the work gets done. (If you have small children, you know how valuable this is - the best laid plans can go so horribly awry with a fever, and having a work culture that is happy to oblige is a godsend.)

Then too, for many artistic types, you're really only as good as your next gig. You might be able to ride that little bit of fame for a while if it gets you a nice big advance, but unless it's something that sets you up for life, chances are you're going to have to keep plugging away at a new project anyway.

So that's what most of us do. We work and write and wait for the big moment to happen. If it happens. In the meantime, we dream of pool boys.


  1. "We work and write and wait for the big moment to happen. If it happens. In the meantime, we dream of pool boys." That is an excellent quote there, Allison. It's going in my quote database and it'll be my quote of the day (which ends up being a quote of the week or month most of the time) on my blog.

    1. Awww, thanks! I'm not sure if it's really that good a quote, but hey, whatever gives you inspiration. :D

  2. I dream of pool boys with the light brown hair...

    Great post, Allison. And where *do* we get that dildo job??

  3. Pool boys would be nice, but at this point, if the don't do dishes or windows? They can hit the road. :D

    1. I think it kind of goes without saying that the pool boys definitely do dishes. And windows. :)

  4. I read your post and thought "So what kind of practical jokes do workers play on each other in a dildo factory - and can anyone there ever make a sexual harassment complaint without being laughed out of court?"

    Oh and "Don't quit your day job" I did get that part. ;-)

    1. You know, those are really excellent questions, John. I think you should go undercover to find out!

  5. I now know there is no way I could ever get a job as a dildo maker...I couldn't even look at the picture without cracking a smile.