First, Patricia C. Wrede has a good blog post up today, check it out: Living the Dream.
(And a reminder that she posts every Wednesday and usually has good things to say for writing craft/writing life.)
That post kind of dovetails with some thoughts I’ve been having lately.
Right now with my writing I earn enough on a consistent basis that I would be paying all of my bills if I were to move somewhere like Omaha, Nebraska where the housing and rental market has not doubled in price in less than ten years.
I’ve been at that level for the last couple of years, and I’m also growing my profit at about 10-15% per year just by doing what I’ve been doing, so for me for right now writing as a career is sustainable.
But I also know that I am not as productive working for myself as I am working for someone else. What I produce each year is what I can do without breaking a sweat. It’s a steady, pleasurable jog that doesn’t get the heart rate up.
(And, yes, that means I have certain inherent privileges around physical and mental health that let me do that. As you can see by this comment, I pay too much attention to the sensitivities of strangers on Twitter. Anyway.)
Right now I’m pretty confident that I could go on exactly as I am and be fine for five years. I mean, the world is a crap shoot sometimes so health, economy, world events can all tilt the world in a day. But I’m good. I don’t need to make a drastic change.
And I enjoy my life. I wake up every day and there is nothing in my day that I dread. And parts of it that I really like. Going for a morning walk with my dog. The writing and editing and fiddling with ads. Watching TV. Reading a book. I have a life I enjoy living that is low-stress and pleasant.
And yet, I’ve been considering going back to paid employment. Working for someone else.
One opportunity would be fighting the good fight, working for a friend, not being paid well, but also probably still having time for the writing if I wanted it. The other would very likely be diving into the deep end, full sprint ahead, rising to a new challenge, and with a potentially high-payout at the end of probably five years.
Both have their appeal. (As does continuing as I am now, but the Strategic brain never stops seeing all the paths.)
Because of those two opportunities, one of the issues I’ve been thinking about lately is how the time I’ve spent focused on writing fits into an overall career path.
As me, employed by me, my career choices are irrelevant. No one else’s opinion matters. I’m not trying to raise funding, I’m not trying to get an agent or book deal. I am just betting on myself with my own money, which means not needing anyone’s approval for what I do or how I do it.
But as a job applicant, the path I have taken to get to this point matters a great deal.
A number of the people I worked with in my prior career see doing something like walking away from a high-paying job to write books as some sort of instability or sign of unreliability.
I mean, forget that I’ve run my own company for a decade now, it’s simply not what’s done.
One does not do that sort of thing. One gets a steady reliable employment and slowly works one’s way up to a corner office while having 2.2 children and appropriate hobbies that put one into contact with the right sort of people.
Which, you know, fair enough. That approach to life works very well for that personality type and we need a lot of people like that for the world not to devolve into chaos.
But it does have me thinking about how to view people in a work space.
Are people like an Olympic athlete who needs to maintain a certain level of training to hit peak performance?
In that case you want someone who has year in and year out put in their sixty-hour weeks (or more) and delivered results. You want them operating at a high level consistently and should only be willing to consider those who have been doing so and are continuing to do so.
Or are people more like a fallow field?
Do they perform better for having taken a step back and consolidated their lessons and defined their goals? Is there something to be said for not having spent twenty-plus years in a dead sprint towards a destination but for instead taking the time to absorb past experiences, refine a viewpoint, and seen that there was a better path or better goal?
I honestly don’t know the answer.
When I did an on-site assignment after a few years of off-site consulting I joked to a co-worker that I no longer had the callouses I needed for it.
I meant the real ones that would let me wear heels every day, but also the metaphorical ones that would let me sit in a bullpen with twenty others day in and day out and let me not only survive but deeply engage with that hours-long conversation about “its” versus “their” for referring to a department.
But I also know that when I took a year off from college I went back more focused and driven. It was that year off that resulted in my adding a major that was going to actually let me get a job after graduation.
It was all well and good that I could say I’d gone to the market to buy a cow in Mayan, but what I needed was that economics degree to tell employers I was worth hiring.
So maybe it’s a bit of both. You want someone who can hit the pace, but also someone who has had enough breathing room to think smart and know where they want to go. I don’t know. It seems to me you get one or the other, but rarely both.
It may be a moot point anyway. The job with a friend may not allow off-site work long-term, which is a deal-breaker for me at this point. The other job may only want “Olympic athletes.”
In which case, I carry on choosing me and doing what I want the way I want when I want, which is not such a bad thing.
In either event, these ridiculous closed captions are not going to fix themselves so off to “work”.