Sometimes the universe comes together in strange ways.
Every now and then at work, I’ll pass by one of my co-workers telling a customer that I have a book coming out (I guess they’re proud of me or something :D), or it’ll come up when I’m in conversation with a customer, and sometimes I get what I’ve always thought of as a pretty strange comment/question. I got it several times yesterday, and it was kind of bothering me, but then I woke up this morning and three separate posts on my Twitter feed held answers to that, so I figured this was as much a sign as I’m ever likely to get.
“Oh, you have a book coming out? And you’re still working here?”
There seems to be this mindset that you sell a book and BAM you’re in the bank!
Not so much the case.
There are always exceptions, but usually it takes a long time of steady writing before you actually have a solid enough foundation to quit your day job. If you have a spouse who can support the family- or if you’re on a trust fund- sure, writing can be your Main Thing, but for most of us, writing isn’t going to be what pays the bills. That’s why it’s called a Labor of Love.
The three posts this morning (one by Laurie Halse Anderson, one by The Rejector, and one by Barry Lyga) say pretty much everything about the money thing, with the exception of taxes. Mandy Hubbard has a post that helps add the taxes into the picture.
Writing is a passion, right up until you get paid to do it- then it becomes a job about which you’re passionate. The thing about jobs is that you can love them, and love them deeply, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to pay you enough to live off of. I say that from experience. I love my job, but without getting into numbers, I have to scrimp most months to make my bills, and I don’t live an extravagant life. My vice is books and I actually work my budget around them (sacrificing quality of food in order to make up the difference when I fall short), but I don’t have unreasonable expenditures; some months my savings account (which is a fairly new thing) takes a hit just to pay the power bill.
I’m not saying that to complain or to garner sympathy, because hey, at the end of the month, the bills get paid.
I say that because it’s given me a certain outlook on money, namely that it doesn’t stretch as far as we’d like it to. Even when I get a windfall of any measure (a surpise check, extra hours, or hey! selling a book), I tend to break down the numbers by expenses. It’s this many months of rent, or this much of a rent payment. Even in its smallest doses- oh hey, that’s three meals if I’m careful. I know how much I’ll pay in rent in a year, how much for internet, about how much for groceries and power and gas, and the financial life of a writer- being based on sales and projected sales- is far from predictable. You don’t know how or when your book will sell.
I’m a worrier, I admit it. I worry about that next rent payment, about that oil change I have to budget in, about unexpected expenses that pop up when we can least afford them (flat tires, etc). I’ve spent too many years playing the game of which paycheck I can use to pay which bills, which bills I can pay late if I absolutely have to, to be comfortable not having a steady, predictable income. The notion of quitting my day job? Makes my skin crawl.
There’s a me from the past- the one that thought being a starving artist would be totally romantic and nothing could be wrong with that- that thinks Yes! Throw the shackles of the day job away and write Write WRITE!
Then there’s the part of me that pays rent, that likes having food in my belly and clothes on my back.
That feeling that comes with selling your book is a high unlike any other. It really is. And there’s this part of you that looks at the numbers with wide eyes and thinks of all the things you could DO with that money. But there are bills, and there are taxes, and there are things you HAVE to do.
So please do yourself a favor and DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.
Until next time~