Writing with a Day Job…Again

When I set my writing projects for June, I didn’t have a day job.

By the time it posted, I did.

Life comes at you fast.

I’m back in retail, working at one of the local dollar stores. Every store does things somewhat differently, but a lot of the basics are the same. It’s like riding a bike. I haven’t forgotten.

Now I have to hope that I haven’t forgotten what it’s like to write with a day job. It’s been a while since I’ve been working out of the house for 15-20 hours a week. It’s been a while since I’ve had to write around that kind of schedule (as well as the other life things I have to write around, too). Right now everything is crazy because this day job happened very suddenly during an already busy time, both for writing and for real life. No doubt it’ll settle down and find a groove, but for now, I’m a little stressed and very tired.

I plan on keeping my June writing plan. The Coop Run is on a deadline, so it will get first priority, but I’m fairly sure I’ll be able to get a good chunk, if not all of season 3 of Murderville written. Hopefully, my productivity will be as high as my hopes.

Though the day job will alleviate an immediate need for financial support, like all of my day jobs, I view it as temporary. My goal is to make a (decent) living by writing.

I still intend to do that.

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Now I’m Just a Slacker with Only Two Day Jobs

slackerYou read that right, kids. I quit working one of my day jobs. I am no longer kid-minding.

During my semi-vacation from teaching home school, I was asked to consider taking on more subjects. So I considered it. I considered it and I considered it. It wasn’t really the actual teaching that was in question, though. A big part of my considering was trying to figure out how to schedule the additional subjects into my work week. If I wanted to keep working all three jobs (as well as the little online plus jobs I do for a few bucks throughout the week), then I’d have to cut into a significant portion of my writing time.

Writing is my career. The day jobs just pay the bills so I can pursue that career. In other words, writing is the priority.

I chose to quit kid-minding and do more home schooling.

There are a few motivations for this.

One, I’ll be teaching science in addition to taking over the reading assignments (I already teach English/grammar and Spanish). I may possibly take over math later on. It’s more lesson planning, but I’ll get to do science, which I love. Plus, I get to make the children read the books I had to read when I was in school. Revenge really is some kind of sweet. Plus doing the reading projects with the kids may prove beneficial for my own writing.

Two, one less job means less stress. Not that kid-minding was hard. The boy, for the most part, was well-behaved (at least with me) and his randomness was quite entertaining. But that three-job schedule could be a bitch to juggle sometimes and to be honest, I was pretty burnt out on it. It’s not fun to be working all the time, even for a workaholic like me. Yes, working one less job means less money, but the bills still get paid, I get a little bit more time for writing, and I’m a little less frazzled thinking about running from one job to the next while trying to squeeze in the household obligations and my own writing deadlines.

Three, this move sharpens my focus on my writing career. It’s time that I stepped it up. Now if I want to make more money, I either need to go back to working three jobs (or worse, get a “real” job) or I need to sell more books. Which would I rather do? Consider this the kick in the ass I’ve long needed.

So, there you go. My reasons for being a slacker and only working two jobs. Not that I need to justify my slackerdom to anyone, but sometimes people like to know the why’s and what for’s of my life as they are generally interested in my existence.

I know. It’s weird.

…And Then the Coke Exploded

Soda explosionFor those of you playing the home game, one of my day jobs involves minding the neighbor’s grandson before and after school on the days that she works. Last week, he had a rough couple of days.

Tuesday, he accidentally spilled a glass of grape juice on the only carpeted portion of the entire living room. It was a real fluke, too. He’d set the glass on the floor next to the couch like he’d done countless other mornings and the remote control slipped off the couch, hit the glass, and knocked it over.

So we had a nice little bonding time before and after school learning how to properly clean up grape juice.

The next day, he didn’t even bother bringing his juice into the living room. Lesson learned.

That afternoon, he got a plastic bottle of soda from the fridge. The Coke was frozen so he opened it over the sink, underestimating the hidden volatility of a frozen soda.

It exploded.

He yells for help and I hurry into the kitchen to find chunks of frozen Coke dripping from the ceiling. It was everywhere. It covered the curtains and the windows above the sink, dripped down the cabinets, somehow sprayed INSIDE the cabinets, covered the countertop and everything on it.

The boy looked like he was going to cry.

I laughed.

He was not pleased with this.

I told him not to freak out, grab some paper towels and get the ceiling first. We mopped up all of the soda we could find, all the while him saying that that his grandma was going to kill him and me repeatedly telling him that she wouldn’t. I made him take down the curtains and throw them in the washer before the soda had a chance to stain them and then we spent some time going over everything to make sure we de-stickied what had been splattered.

The poor kid couldn’t understand why I kept laughing every time we found soda in a new, hidden place. He didn’t see any humor in the situation.

I explained to him that it was all a matter of experience. He’s young. To him the mess is huge and the consequences are dire. I’m old. I’ve experienced worse. Sure, it’s a big mess, but it can be cleaned. And there’s chunks of Coke dripping from the CEILING. That’s pretty hilarious.

Also, it wasn’t my neck on the line.

He was so traumatized, that when he got a second soda, he took it outside to the very edge of the patio to open it, even though it wasn’t frozen.

Our second day of mess-cleaning quality time ended with twenty minutes of us wrestling the curtains back onto their rods and hanging them up again. I’m happy to report that all of the soda came out of the curtains.

I’m also happy to report that the boy was not killed by his grandmother, just like I said he wouldn’t be.

Writing–How Will I NaNo with Three Jobs?

English: My own work. Created using "Inks...

I had three jobs last year when I did NaNo and I came through it just fine, true. But last year I was only kid minding in the morning. Now I’m kid minding in the afternoon, too. Writing time may get a little scarce and/or awkward.

The days when I kid mind and teach will be the toughest.  I usually have a spare hour, hour and a half before teaching that I can use to get down some words. The more the better, obviously, and this is probably when I’ll try to get the bulk of the writing done during the day. And I can write a little more by hand during afternoon kid minding.  The rest will have to be done after dinner, if there are any words left to get.

I have a feeling that getting my absolute minimum will likely be my goal on those days. No overachieving will be happening, thanks.

Of course, I’m saying all of this with the anticipation that I will struggle on those days. It’s entirely possible that I won’t have much trouble, that the pressure of getting my words done in a short time will motivate me and I’ll get my word count for the day in no time.

And then I’ll end up struggling on the easy days when I have more time.

The balance must be maintained, you know.

I realize that I could always make up any low word counts on my days off. I try to get double the word count on the weekends anyway. But there’s something in me that wants to see my little word count graph steadily rising. Even if I win NaNo and hit my word count and finish my project, that little flatline will haunt me. I have a daily word count and I’m determined to stick to it.

If I sound a little paranoid, well, that’s how my brain operates. I anticipate the worst and prepare for it, even though more likely than not, I’m worrying for nothing. In this case, I’m probably worrying for nothing.

Whatever. I like to have a plan.

Shut Up, Brain

Human brain NIH

I’m one of those people that has trouble with ruminations. Ruminating, if you don’t know, is going over and over and over (and over) something in your head. I tend to replay stupid things I’ve done or said in mind, sometimes for hours. It keeps me from falling asleep. It keeps me from concentrating on other things that I need to be doing. It ratchets up the anxiety to the point that I think my head is going to pop off.

For example, last week I had some text message confusion with some people I work with at the clothing store. Long story short, my phone doesn’t like group messaging, reply all is a fucking crime, and I should have put that phone list in my phone when I got it. When I finally figured out what was going on and why, I felt like a total idiot.

And so, my brain set to work not only replaying that whole fiasco out, but also trying to come up with a way to explain myself should it come up in conversation during the next floorset about how I’m a moron without looking like a huge moron.

For two hours, I tortured myself with this garbage that everyone else involved likely laughed off and probably won’t even remember the next time I see them. But I don’t like being an idiot or looking like one, so I must be punished, I guess.

Finally, after driving myself crazy, I decided to try a little meditation. I do yoga daily and though I don’t usually do the meditation portion at the end of my workouts, I will do it on occasion when I’m feeling stressed or anxious, or in this case, dumb. And it worked! I did a quick meditation and immediately felt better, the anxiety and burden of stupid lifted off of my mind.

So what did my brain do?

Marvel at the fact that I was no longer thinking about it by trying to think about it again. Like someone with a sore tooth realizing the tooth is no longer sore and then poking around to see if they find any trace of that soreness left, thereby making the tooth sore again.

Yes, I’m that kind of dingbat. Or at least my brain is.

So, of course, I started thinking about it again. And then I meditated again. And then I poked around again until I started thinking about it again. And so I deleted the evidence from my phone. And I meditated again.

And then I said, “You know what? I need a blog post for Monday. Here. Let me just write about how stupid my brain can be and how stupid I can be. THAT will fix it.”

So there. Maybe now my brain will shut up about it for good.

Well…maybe a little more meditation.

The Lives of Other Grown-Ups

Adult Card

It’s already been established in previous posts that I’m not very good at being a grown-up. I didn’t choose a conventional road through life. I’ve shirked many responsibilities that other people think I should have. I don’t have the typical, societal endorsed grown-up life.

So living this non-conventional life, I often wonder about the “normal” grown-ups I know and their lives.

For example, I know many people that work in various offices. They have cubes and they stare at spreadsheets all day and they complain about their coworkers and it’s all very normal and very adult. And I find myself hearing about their lives and wondering, is this what they wanted? Is this what they had in mind when the went to college? Is this their goal?

Of course, I don’t know and I don’t want to unintentionally offend anyone by asking. I don’t want to put down their job because it’s their life and so their job is important. And I’m not one to go around saying one job is more important than another. But I do wonder if this is what they always wanted to do.

I know that for some people, it isn’t. They took the jobs their in now because of other parts of their lives, other goals they wanted to achieve and the job they took was a way for them to do that. But some people, I wonder.

I wonder how some people can do it. I worked in an office and I didn’t care for it. I thought I’d like it and I didn’t. It wasn’t the people, it was just the job. It didn’t work with me. And the idea of being trapped in a job like that because I need to make money to pay the bills makes me break out in a cold sweat.

I wonder why it doesn’t have the same effect on them. Are they more mature than I am? Do they understand that common thread of normal life that I’ve somehow missed that working a drudge job is just part of the game? Or do they even see it as a drudge job? Is it something fulfilling to them? Does it fill something in them that I don’t have empty in myself and that’s why the idea of a grown up job gives me the hives?

I don’t know, but I regularly ask myself these thing.

I want to be a writer because it’s something I think I’m good at. It’s one of my few talents. It solves my problem of wanting to be so many things when I grow up by letting me bypass the actual time needed to be educated to do them and just writing about them instead. I get to live vicariously through my characters. I want to be my own boss. (Okay, that’s only sort of because I still have to answer to other folks like editors and such, but in general, I’m the one that figures out what I’m working on and what my timetable is for the most part.)

I’ve thought about abandoning that in favor of the “normal” life and being a grown-up, but I just can’t bring myself to go through with it.

I think I may be allergic.

But that doesn’t stop me from wondering about other grown-ups and their lives. No matter what, I hope they’re happy.

The Fiction Writing Life

I’m sure I made a post about this before for Writing Wednesday, but I think it bears repeating for a Monday Megalomania because I feel that people not acquainted with writing for a living, or at least writing for publication, don’t understand how it works.

Most people that have a job leave their house, go to a place of work, make so much money an hour, come home and get a paycheck, either weekly or bi-weekly. Obviously, some people don’t have to leave their house. Some people are on salary. But whatever the variations, the basics remain the same. These are considered legitimate jobs.

I, on the other hand, am trying to cobble together some kind of day job out of selling Rejected, selling my jewelry, working jobs with DaLette, and anything else I can do in order to make money to pay the bills and have time to write for publication, in which I would also get money to pay the bills. None of these things are considered legitimate.

Why? Because it’s not a “traditional” job. I don’t get a regular paycheck. I don’t leave the house to do it. And a lot of people underestimate the amount of work that goes into the stories I write, thinking that I’m lazy and I’m not working hard enough to earn what money I do make from writing (or any of the other gigs I work to make money, but we’re going to stick to writing for now).

Allow me to illustrate the work that goes into a short story.

I get an idea. I decide to write this idea. So I write a first draft. Then I set it aside. Depending on the impending deadlines and how I feel about the story, I might set it aside for a couple of days or I might set it aside for a couple of months. It just depends.

Then I revise the story. And then I revise it again. And if I’m lucky, I can stop there and polish it up and call it done. But it’s not uncommon for a story to go through four or five revisions before I’m satisfied with it.

So, the story is as ready as it’s going to be at this point in time. I’ve got my prose all tight, the descriptions all lush, and the grammar so polished it shines. Now I have to submit it. If I don’t have a something in mind when I write it in the first place, the story might possibly sit there for a while before I can find a suitable publication for it. If I can find a suitable publication for it. That’s a risk I run, too. It’s entirely possibly that I write something that can’t be published (or at least, published for money; I aim to get paid for my work for the most part).

But, let’s say I have something in mind and so I send my story off. And then I wait. And wait. And wait. Depending on the deadlines, the reading periods, and many other factors, I can wait for months to hear back about a story. Most of the time, the waiting ends in rejection. And then I start all over.

But, let’s say my story gets accepted. Hooray! I’m getting paid! Except I’m not getting paid until the story gets published. And I’m getting paid the semi-pro rate (I won’t go lower) of 1 cent a word. Considering most short stories typically run anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 words, sometimes as many as 8,000, I’m not exactly raking in the big bucks. Or the immediate bucks. Depending on what the contract says, I can be waiting for a considerable period of time.

For example, my last story to get published, “Land of the Voting Dead” in Zombidays: Festivities of the Flesheaters, was accepted in April of 2010. I received my check, 53 bucks, November 5th of this year. I wrote and revised the story in December of 2009. I then added a scene to it in February of 2010 in order to meet the required word count. I revised it again. I polished it again. And then I submitted it. I easily had a week’s worth of work in that story.

And that was one of the easier ones!

At this point, if I ever get “At 3:36” published, I know the paycheck won’t match the work I’ve put into it. It wouldn’t be a far cry to say that I’ve probably have a month invested in that story spread out over a couple of years and I’m not finished with it yet. That’s a lot of work for one story.

But I only get paid on delivery and only for the final number of words on the page. I don’t get paid for all of the words I put down and then took out. Or put back in. Or changed. I don’t get paid for the rewrites or the research. Just the finished product.

Now, I’m only speaking for short story writing. That’s the only writing I’ve got experience making money from. And it really bugs me when people imply that because I’m not making a whole lot of money doing it, because I’m not getting a regular paycheck, that I’m not working.

I beg to differ.

I work seven days a week for very little.

Why?

Because it’s my job. And I love it. And one day it will pay better.

But it will never be a typical job.

People need to learn to respect that.

The Worth of a Dollar

I’m not going to lie, money is important to me. The making of it, the having of it, the spending of it. I’m not too interested in other’s people money. I’m too busy thinking about my own. Or the lack thereof.

Money plays a big factor in my self-esteem. I’m worth not just what’s in the bank, but what I’m bringing in and how I’m paying the bills. My ego lives and dies by my checkbook.

It’s a pretty messed up measure of worth, I know. Never mind how the stock market keeps gyrating or the fluxuating price of gold; what’s it say on my pay stub?

Now one would think that since I pin so much of my worth on my money that I’d have gone through college and got myself a good paying job and ergo I would be in the position to think my shit don’t stink. Have we discussed that I like to do everything the hard way? Yeah, that was clearly not the case.

In terms of my self-esteem, it’s lunacy that I’m quitting a regular paycheck to go back to scratching out what I can. On the one hand, the struggle will make me happier because I’ll be doing what I want to do.  On the other hand, my self-esteem is looking to take a severe hit because the money is not going to be steady and I’ll be struggling to make ends meet once again.

Because of my money issues, I’m very good with my money. I’m good at going without. I’m good at saving. I’m good at paying the bills first. I’m good at making sure the obligations are taken care of before I do something fun, and even then I usually defer to responsibility and save my money instead of spend it. My dad likes to joke about how tight I am. I don’t know why he thinks it’s so funny. He’s the one that made me that way.

My dad grew up poor. Real poor. Poorer than I grew up, for sure. My dad harbors a bitterness that my mother (who did not grow up poor) gave us things when we were kids. Never mind that a lot of our toys and clothes were second-hand, it was just the fact that we had them. That my mom spent money to give them to us. Now, my mom did run us up in quite a bit of debt with her shopping, but still, my sister and I were far from spoiled in the material sense. Money is a big deal with my dad. He never has enough and he doesn’t want to spend it. Ask him. He’s always broke.

When I moved in with him during my sophomore year, I didn’t ask him for anything. I wouldn’t even ask him for lunch money. I lived off of what I had in my savings account from babysitting and working in my mom’s daycare. It wasn’t until I’d lived with him for a while that it occured to him that he didn’t know where I was getting my lunch money. Then he started giving it to me.

My sister had to have her appendix out when we were in high school. All I can remember from that is my dad bitching about the doctor’s bill. So when I fractured my ankle before senior year, I refused to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to listen to Dad bitch about how much I cost him (yes, we had insurance, but there’s that whole deductable thing and then what insurance won’t cover, and all that jazz). Over a decade later, I’m paying for not having my ankle properly set.

There’s no worse feeling than asking my dad for money. The disgust is palpable. So I do everything in my power to have my own. To make my own.

I’m hard enough on myself. I don’t need him to add to it.

The true test of this next venture is to make enough money to pay my bills. I pay my bills, the self-esteem stays happy and my dad continues to see me as legitimate person dwelling in his house. It’s a win-win.

Sure. No pressure.

Times, They Are A-Changin’

The reason why Monday Megalomania is posting so late (if you notice, it usually posts early in the morning) is because I had to put my notice in at my day job first.

Yeah, you read that right. I’m quitting my day job.

There are a lot of contributing factors, the biggest two being I’ve got another opportunity that I think will work out better for me and I’m not cut out for cube life.

The new opportunity is coming from my friend DaLette. I admit that I’ve been looking for an out from the day job for a few months. The steady money is nice, but I resented how little time and energy it left me to write. I initially thought to find a new day job, something part time, possibly in retail. But pickens have not improved since the last time I was looking for a day job. I was feeling stuck and pretty miserable.

However, DaLette was looking into starting her own business and after some research decided she’d keep doing things the way she’d been doing as a freelance landscaper/decorator, wedding officiator, and self-published author. One hell of a mixed bag, right? But it works for her and that’s what she told me. If I wanted to get out, I needed to make my own day job and freelance my strengths.

It took a few weeks for me to understand exactly what she was getting at. My gig is writing and I haven’t been too successful at making money at it. I couldn’t really think of anything else I had a shot at doing that would pay my bills and my bills need to be paid. Remember I made a mess of my finances pursuing this writing dream without a regular income and I’ve yet to really recover.

But the seed was planted in my head and I started looking in my life for things I could do to freelance, so to speak. It took a little time, but it finally hit me. One thing I’ve always loved to do and always been pretty good at doing is making jewelry. Bracelets have always been my specialty, but I’ve done necklaces, too. It occured to me that between friends, relatives, and the Internet, I could make a little money doing it.

With this thought in my head, I decided why should I wait to have someone publish my short stories? Why can’t I just publish my own? If I’m going to be selling my goods, I should sell the goods I really want to be selling, right? Right (I’ll be doing a post about self-publishing on Wednesday).

Now, I’m a very money-minded person (that’s a post for another Monday, too). I have to crunch numbers in order to look at the financial reality of what I’m getting into and I admit, I wasn’t thrilled with what I looked at initially. But after some thought, I figured at the very least it would get me some extra cash.

I started moving forward with these new projects, plotting how to use word of mouth and the Internet to my advantage. I like having a plan. It gives me goals. It gives me something to work toward. It makes me feel like I have some control.

And then DaLette stopped by.

Her freelancing has been going well. So well, in fact, that she needs some help. I offered to be that help before. I can be that help now. I’m going to be that help.

I figure that between my ventures and the work DaLette can offer me, I can keep my head above water in terms of paying the bills and have time to get back to seriously working on writing. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be work, but it’s going to be work at something I WANT to do and I LIKE to do.

Yeah, that brings me to the second factor. I didn’t really like my job. Maybe about a month into the gig I realized that I didn’t like it, but couldn’t figure out why. There was no reason that I could put my finger on other than I’d rather have been writing. However, I felt that even though I didn’t like it, I could tough it out for a while for the sake of the paycheck. I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a bad job.

In the past few months, that’s changed. The job has changed. I’m not happy with the change and I’m not happy with some other things that I won’t get into out of respect for the people that still work there. I’ve got some hang-ups with the way some things are done and some things are handled and there’s no reason for me to hang around in that environment and make things worse.

So, I’m getting out. After Labor Day, I will be free.

And back to working 7 days a week for whatever scratch I can make.

Writing–Writing with a Day Job 3: The Reckoning

I don’t know if that’s accurate, but it’s a catchy title and I’m going to stick with it.

The duties at my day job have changed which means I no longer have the extra time at work to write. Downtime in between duties provided me with time to write blog posts or work on short stories. I couldn’t do a lot, but what I could do gave me time to do other things after the day job shift ended.

But this change means that my downtime is pretty much gone and i’m once again going to have to reconfigure how I do things. And since I’m having so much trouble doing things to begin with, this doesn’t bode well.

I am really struggling trying to achieve any kind of balance. This month I’ve managed to make a little progress on The World (Saving) Series, but I continue to fall further behind, which just depresses me and amplifies my struggling. I’ve put off posting any new story in the Outskirts Universe because I’d like to set-up an archive and use that instead, but I haven’t gotten around to doing that. My short stories sit, ready and waiting and unsent.

I feel like I’m losing hold of my dream in favor of a paycheck.

The emotional toll isn’t helping at all this sort of struggle is taking isn’t helping at all. It’s making me question my dedication to writing.

If I had my choice, I’d make money from writing. Unfortunately, I’m not to even close to that point. The way I’m going, I’m never going to get to that point. It’s very frustrating.

Logically, I’m going to have to change my schedule to meet my new needs (demands?). This may mean blogging less and shelving the Outskirts Universe Project until I can make some serious headway on The World (Saving) Series revisions. I need to get this round done.

If I can find some more hours in the day and some more energy, that could go a long way in helping me, too.

Stories By The Numbers

 -Submitted: 2
-Ready: 9
-Accepted/Rejected: 0