When are you going to get a real job?

January 21, 2012

Another winter day in Wisconsin, where you can measure the temp by how long it takes your nose hair to freeze.

Today?  A while.  Which means it is probably in the teens, with no wind.  (Ha.  I am wrong.  It is 3).   And labradoodle, Havoc has gotten hold of my gloves and left enough fingers to make an obscene gesture in Britain.

Thank you all so much for looking in, and for being eager to see me.  This is probably why it seems warm and sunny today.  And thanks to Helenajust for the questions on the Livejournal branch of this blog.

From Helena:

“How (or maybe why) do you manage to continue writing when there are many different demands on your time and emotional energy?

Do you regard it as a job which you have to do to earn money, and therefore try to work so many hours a day/week or write so many words per day/week?

Or does your brain keep plotting and writing dialogue etc. while you’re busy elsewhere, so that you have to find time to put it on paper?

Or do you get withdrawal symptoms if you don’t write? Or…”

Not curious at all, are you, Helena? But excellent questions!

If I want to talk writing, this is the perfect place to start.  Someday, when I do a full day, conference workshop (probably titled, Christine Merrill:  Will she ever shut up?)  I will begin hour one with “The Writer’s Life”, why you do it, and how do you find the time.

Let us start with “Is it a job?”  I can go back to a previous post, from the day I decided to go full time:


The truth is, I accidentally quit my day job. After turning in my second manuscript (which was months overdue)  I’d gotten a multi-book contract without warning, and went into the boss’s office to negotiate cutting back to part time.  He said “No.”  And I gave notice without even thinking.

And then went back to my desk and had a small aneurism.  Did plenty of thinking afterward.  Writing has no income guarantees.  I already knew I was no damn good at being self employed, because I’d done it with theater.  When left unsupervised I was always slacking on deadlines, and a day late and a dollar short with the results.  But then, it was just me and the DH.  Now I had two kids, a house, and responsibilities.  I was totally screwing up my life!

But apparently, I’d grown up.  As a costumer, I was a flake.  As a librarian, I was a slacker.

Probably because I was always writing romance novels at my desk.

But as a writer, I am more reliable than most airlines.  Having bills to pay helps a lot.  I don’t work, I don’t eat.  Not quite that dire, I suppose.  My husband has a job.  But treating writing as a career has turned it from pin money into a significant part of the family income.

I like to do 1000 words a day, when I am on deadline.  I consider that an easy, marathoner’s pace.  I can do it without much thought, seven days a week if necessary.   It takes between one and eight hours, depending on the scene.  I work as long as necessary to get 1000.  Then I stop and have the rest of the day to do something else.

I divide a 75,000 word book by 75, set a deadline allowing for days off, hair appointments, unplanned emergencies, etc.  And off I go.  I write crap, if necessary.  But I write.

With 365 days in a year, this equals 365,000 words, or three and a half single title novels.

In theory.

But I don’t write that much.  200,000 words, or less, is closer to the truth.  I could do more if I shot the dog, threw the cat out, divorced my husband, disowned my kids, and changed my phone number so my parents and friends could never find me.  But this would not be much of a life.  I need time to do revisions, to watch Doctor Who and Sherlock, and have some sort of personal interaction with the people around me.

For example: I had to take a 20 minute break in writing this because the cat needed to sleep on my chest.  I had to tip my chair back so she could be comfortable, and I couldn’t reach the keyboard.

I can probably talk about goal setting and responsibilities next time, since I am so good at setting priorities.

2 responses to “When are you going to get a real job?”

  1. Bobbi says:

    {smile} awesome, Chris.

  2. Great Post, Chris. Especially liked the aside about your kitty 🙂

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