Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Fitting It In



So, it’s that time again… time to account for my Koala Challenge pointage for the month of January. I managed three…

I did the introduction comment at McKoala’s blog for 1 point. It was really kind of a freebie, but whatever, it’s mine, all mine!

I managed to finish and submit one regional parenting magazine article for 1 point.

And I managed to write, edit, gather critiques on, and re-edit the pitch for my query letter for 1 point.

I did write a bit of new fiction, but not enough for the point.

Normally, I’m really annoyed with myself when I do that little in a whole month. But when I sat down to look at where I was spending my time, it couldn’t be helped. I have literally spent no less than 30 hours each week looking through job postings, writing, re-writing and tweaking cover letters, submitting them to various companies, and filling out online employment applications. Outside of all that, I’ve been working through a temp service when they can get me office positions. I’m hoping one of those turns into a permanent position, or maybe one of my resumes/interviews lands me one. Oh, yeah, and then there’s the whole full-time parenting of three children, heading up the Band Contest Committee for the event coming up in a few weeks (which meant finding and scheduling 33 volunteers), and rebuilding my house with limited (read as no) funds. It is what it is. I need a regular, stable income. My kids need to be fed, taken care of, and watched over. And there’s only so much time in a day… I’ve tried to change that last one, but it’s not going over so well.

I’ve actually been looking for a job, off and on, for the past two years or so. It wasn’t so imperative then, I could make do with a little extra money freelance writing here and there, and budget out things at the time. But a number of people have said things along the lines of, “Oh, well what you really need is a creative writing position. You wouldn’t be happy in just any job.” Meaning that I wouldn’t be happy in office work, I’d guess, as that’s primarily what I’m looking for… it always strikes me as odd how people categorize you. First of all, those comments are almost always made from the standpoint of someone who’s never had something shut off because they couldn’t pay a bill. Seriously, any job is a good job if you enjoy it, work hard at it, and it allows you to live.

And, oddly enough, I like secretarial work. I do. I think the skills I’ve developed writing all translate awesomely to running or helping to run an office. Does that mean I’ll stop writing when I find a full time job? No. I won’t stop breathing, either. There are plenty of writers out there who are brilliant at what they do on the page, but it won’t pay the mortgage. I also tend to think that a career outside of writing gives you more experience and self to speak from when you do sit down at the keyboard. The trick is fitting it all in.

So how do you do it? Do you write full time or outside of your regular career and family obligations?

27 comments:

Amy Sue Nathan said...

I agree. I think sometimes writing jobs can take away from writing, if that makes sense. I always thought that being a waitress would give me LOTS of material. Or working in a hotel. I could write The Desk Clerk Diaries with that job, I bet.

Merry Monteleone said...

That actually makes perfect sense! When I was most actively pursuing freelance writing, I wrote the least amount of fiction. It's just hard to sit down to write when that's what you've been doing all day.

And I do think Waitress and Bartender are great jobs for writers... it's the perfect people watching job. Actually, I put up a post on fb about taking all the writers to a little bar called Errico's - one of the bartenders there is also a writer (hi, Patty, if you're reading!)

Laurel said...

Writing time is the water that seeps through the cracks and keeps everything else afloat. And honestly, don't you find that you're always writing? Maybe not sitting at a computer but driving down the road, doing dishes, trying to shut your brain down at night...those are all times when the voices in my head talk the most.

jjdebenedictis said...

You've got to put living and family ahead of art. It's sad, but you're making the right choice, Merry, and you can always come back to your art when your life and family situation stabilizes.

One technique I heard mentioned by a fellow who was INSANELY busy with his kids and job was to practice micro-writing.

The idea is you carry a notebook with you all the time and jot down stuff while you're waiting for the coffee to brew, while you watch over the baby splashing in his bath, while you're on the toilet, even (ew.) Whatever works!

I got the impression this fellow didn't sleep much because he still made time to type up his notebook's jottings--but even keeping notes for later might help scratch the writing itch when you just can't take time to sit down at the keyboard.

Good luck juggling it all, Merry, and let us know if you need some moral support. (((*hugs*)))

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I hope you find something wonderful soon!

I basically write full time. This is the year I'm hoping to make some money at it--and my husband really is hoping!

I have that support system though. If I didn't, I'd have to work. And knowing me, I wouldn't write. Art for me is a bit like an on/off switch. I either live the life of an artist or I don't. I admire people, even some in my own crit group, who write their books for an hour after work every day! It's incredible! I have no doubt you'll manage it somehow.

Merry Monteleone said...

Laurel!

Yes, yes, and yeppers! Writing is a constant... not the act of sitting at the computer hacking out the words, but the stories and characters roving through your head... of course, I think it's probably a little crazy to non-writers, but yeah, I've had some of my best fiction breakthroughs when I'm driving or doing dishes or anything other than concentrating on the words.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey JJ,

I'm not (insanely enough) putting it aside now. It's way slower going than I'd like, but that's time constraints more than anything else. And I figure, once I find a permanent position, I can budget both my time and income in a more reasonable way, at which point I'll fit it in if I have to get up at 5 in the morning.

I dig the idea of keeping a notebook. I did that when my kids were young - toted it with me everywhere and wrote the rough drafts to my first two novels out longhand. I still keep a legal pad in a little leather portfolio when I'm on temp assignments... I write article ideas down and sometimes full sketches for something I can work on when I get home.

Probably not going to start taking it into the bathroom though... ew

Merry Monteleone said...

Awwwwww SS@S, thank you!

I'm still bummed about not being able to make it out there in November.

I think it's awesome that you get to pursue it full-time. Let me know if you need an extra spot for a blog tour or anything!

As far as how people go about it, I think any path that takes you there, or any path you're not afraid to hike, will do. There are excellent writers who have several novels out before they turn to it full time, if they do at all... then you look at people like Erica, who are so unbelievably prolific - if I had all the time in the world I don't think I could accomplish as much as she can in writing, all while juggling a full family and illness. Every path's different.

Peter Dudley said...

Every path is indeed different, and you gotta hike the one that's right for you. I could never microwrite--jot down ideas, yeah. But actually compose? No, it takes me a full 10 minutes before I build up the concentration and attitude. I'm one of those who writes an hour or two three or four times a week, in a good week. Lately there have been a lot of good writing weeks since my broken elbow frees up a few hours a week of gym time.

Life goes in cycles. Sometimes your writing time is abundant; others, not so much.

Stephen Parrish said...

Seriously, any job is a good job if you enjoy it, work hard at it, and it allows you to live.

Once when I switched from one jewelry store to another I went from having a lot of fun to being miserable. Same kind of store, same kind of merchandise, same kind of clientele.

Different kind of colleagues. The former liked to whistle while they worked, the latter were Satan's minions. Thinking about other jobs I'd had, I realized the only thing I needed to enjoy a job was someone nice working next to me.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Pete,

Well at least there's a silver lining to the elbow injury! :-)

I was a writer who needed to get in the zone and work on it steady for a number of hours... the kids kind of cured me of that... it still annoys me to be interrupted midstream... but because there's always been so many interruptions, I've kind of learned to work around it when I can.


I wonder if, one day when the house is all quiet, I'll find it hard to work without all the interruptions.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Stephen,

You know, that's probably the single most important characteristic of a great job - people you like working with. It's kind of luck of the draw, though, in some aspects. You never know how someone will be to work with until you're actually there for a while... they're all on good behavior for the first few days... and then their little quirks come out. lol.

Erica Orloff said...

I write full-time with nothing to fall back on. At times, it can make the pressure that comes with that pretty intense, and writing can seem like a job. I've waited tables and bartended early on in my career and never minded it. Always felt like I observed people and it gave me good material. I've also worked in publishing houses as an editor--and I echo Stephen's sentiments. All it took was cool co-workers. And when I didn't have them, I was miserable.

Of course, now I work with Pop and Pirate Boy talking to me all day. Productivity . . . WAY down. LOL!

Merry Monteleone said...

E,

I have no idea how you stay so productive with everything you have going on... it's amazing! And lucky for those of us reading you =)

Jean Ann Williams said...

Merry, I sure hope you do get the job best suited for you.

Micro writing? I believe it. Sometimes I get only five sentences written at night on my newest project. Doing that month after month, I now have a legal sized tablet full and am beginning a new one.

There is ALWAYS time to write, if even for a few minutes daily.

tripleZmom said...

I wrote articles for a content farm for a while because I needed immediate, reliable money. And it totally drained me of the will to write much else. I feel like I'm still climbing out of that black hole. But my only other job is mom. At least for now.

Merry Monteleone said...

triplezmom,

Those can totally drain you! I'm registered with one content site, and I still haven't taken an article... I occasionally scroll through to try to find something, but eh...

Have you tried writing for regional parenting magazines? Or subcontracting through another freelancer? The negative part about submitting your own articles is that you're basically writing on spec. so there's no guarantee anyone will buy it... but at least it's something that interests you. If you subcontract through another freelancer, you do have the option of declining the assignments you're not interested in... just a thought.

I'm at merry (dot) monteleone (at)gmail (dot) com if you want to talk about it... I'm always happy to share anything I've learned. Makes me feel better because most of the stuff I've learned has been because another freelancer gave me tips the same way. =)

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Jean Ann,

Thank you! And I did get your last email, I keep meaning to respond, I've just been stretched... prayers are always appreciated ;-)

Thank you!

Jean Ann Williams said...

I hate to show how clueless I am, but Merry, would again explain to me what content means and the content farm?

I'm not understanding.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Jean Ann,

Content is writing, but most often you refer to web writing as content... when you submit to say a magazine, you just call it an article... web content can run the gamut from full, and very researched articles to little blurbs to blog posts... you'll sometimes hear bloggers refer to their posts as content.


Content mills or content farms are sites that writers can join, or be approved to write for. Often the articles are done for what is fairly low pay. There are pluses and minuses here - many professional writers hold them in a bit of disdain because they do pay so low, and the standards for writing the articles should NEVER be low, because your name is attached - so essentially you're doing the same amount of work for them for a fraction of what you might make ghost writing for private companies or even submitting your own articles to paying markets.

The plus side writers who use those content mills will point to is that there is always work. And most magazine submissions are on spec. or by query and approval which can take some time. Like I said, I am registered at one, but I haven't yet found an assignment to take. I have ghosted and done batches of SEO articles (search engine optimization - they're short articles with specific search terms included, and they're notoriously low paying, but they're also pretty easy to write).

The problem with all of the low paying jobs is that it makes it harder at times for professional writers to make what they're worth from their work. And a lot of newer writers who take them will burn out really quick, because the pay is often not worth the effort...

Jean Ann Williams said...

Wow, okay, I thank you, Merry. I understand that. I need to learn more about all things Internet.

angelawd said...

You sound so organized! Now that I'm in school fulltime, writing and working are parttime...but I have big freelancing ideas for the summer! Hope you find a job that is both satisfying and pays the bills.

Tyhitia Green said...

I write around everything else, making time for my writing--and making it a priority. :-D

Kerrie McLoughlin said...

not trying to control your life, but i'd give myself at least 5 points for submitting a piece to regional parenting mags ... b/c i submit to over 200 at once! that counts as bigtime in my house and it only takes seconds after i had put them all in my email contacts!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Angela,

I'm trying to stay organized, but you know, not one of those naturally organized peoples... I wing it and make lists and such.

That's great that you're back in school!!! Good luck with it...

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Tyhitia,

That's the thing about creative endeavors... you are the only one who can make it happen... so you have to make it a priority or life will overtake it.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Kerrie,

I'm doing the same thing with RPM's... though now I'm starting to zone in on some editors who've bought my articles before...

For the Koala challenge though, it's more about the writing... so you can only include a point per article, no matter how many times you submit it or how many places pick it up... It's really geared more for fiction writing, and keeping your page count up, but I'm using it for both this year.