When I was twenty-two and just figuring out my life and what I wanted the work part of it to look like, I met a woman who showed me something beautiful: her own life. She didn’t have a 9-5. She freelanced at different law firms, had just enough money to make herself happy, and took breaks during the day to get pedicures and drink margaritas. Before meeting her, I thought a job in a cubicle farm, classroom, or working behind an office desk in a high rise were my only alternatives. Coming from working class/poor parents who knew the value of steady and reliable work had only helped to solidify that impression. Side note: their hard-working genes must have skipped a generation though because I’m the laziest person I know.
When I met Ms. Darling (an alias, in case you’re wondering), it was like life flung open another door. I didn’t want to be a sugar baby or a wife who lunches, I just wanted to be a woman who lived magically and had a job to support that magical living. I wasn’t asking for much, right?
What Ms. Darling taught me though, was that I didn’t have to be a slave to my job, or to a sugar mama, to have that magical life. I could have a job and use it to supplement the type of life I wanted. Then I decided to be a writer. Don’t laugh.
When my first book was published over ten years ago, I thought I was well on my way to realizing the goal of writing and traveling and enjoying the things between. I know, I’m a ridiculously optimistic soul. The book did okay, and through a part time job at my favorite bookstore as well as signing a multi-book contract—with a break in between to attend grad school, get married, work briefly at a corporate job, get diagnosed with cancer, recover from cancer, then get divorced—I was able to eke out the kind of life that was okay with me. I was resigned to the fact that I’d never have regular Sunday brunches at the Ritz (but I really wanted to) or get that condo in Inman Park I lusted after, but everything was just fine. Struggles happened, but that’s just an accepted part of life, right?
Then, I had a patch of SERIOUS struggle. The type of struggle that had me wondering where the rent money would be coming from. And this struggle pushed me to start writing in another genre – straight romance. Writing this new genre not only made me more money, it also exposed me to a whole different community of writers with a frightening level of professionalism and drive.
Watching them work, getting their advice, feeling myself part of a working writing community for the first time was life-changing. Not only were these women writing for major publishers, they were also self-publishing and cranking out upwards of four excellent books a year. It was hard work (see the above comment about my laziness), but it was hard work I could finally get behind. Through their examples, these women presented to me yet another vision of what a self-propelled working life could be like.
These days, it’s exciting to think about the writing future as it comes. The idea of doing the work I love, traveling to places I want to travel, and not living in the poorhouse because of these choices. Seeing these women work, seeing their success, makes me want to do better. Because of them, I see the value in treating writing as a career instead of this thing I love that occasionally makes me a little money. It’s a new world of marketing plans, schedules, regular self-publishing, and professional conferences I attend for networking and learning, not just to find friends to get drinks with after.
It’s a new door opening. Or it could just be me finally growing up.