Thursday, May 16, 2019

Not Quitting My Day Job

You probably think every author dreams of quitting their day jobs and writing full time. That might be true for many, and I can't say if a situation came along that offered to turn me into the next J.K. Rowling, I'd turn it down. Or, maybe I would--that seems like A LOT of pressure and a lot of public attention, and I'm not sure I'd handle that so well. I also can't say I wouldn't like to see one of my books on a grocery store shelf.

But really, my biggest goal as an author isn't financial independence (don't tell my publishers I said that) or total commercial ubiquity. My main concern, for now, is simply to write and publish entertaining and high quality books that are hopefully popular enough that I don't have to think so much about promotions and book reviews. And that I can sell enough to justify my time and expense. At the least, I hope I'm allowed to keep telling stories--some way, some how. As pretentious as it might sound, I've always only written stories for myself. If I never published again, I hope I'd continue writing stories that please and satisfy me alone. It's why I totally understand the appeal of writing fan fiction--but that's another subject for another day.

I'm privileged, perhaps, to have this perspective because I can afford to have it. I can afford it because I am fortunate to have a great day-job.  Let me digress for a moment. I've always had a passion for creativity. As a kid I was fascinated with the arts--I participated in the drama club and took AP art in high school.
I'd also gotten it firmly stuck in my head that I wanted to be a chef. The women in my family were enthusiastic about food and cooking, and I saw that as a desirable and viable career option. My parents humored me and took me on tours of culinary schools like Johnson and Wales in Charleston.

But at the end of it all, my dad ultimately convinced me to get a more traditional education. I compromised, choosing to attend a state university that offered a B.S. in Food Service Management.

See, I've always had a bit of a practical side--a fear of leaping off that creative ledge and falling to financial ruin. The idea of being a starving artist was never romantic to me. Maybe I could be an awesome chef, but if not, I could at least manage a restaurant or a hospital cafeteria or something along those lines. People always got to eat, right? And I did do those things. I chased that dream. I cooked, I catered, I hustled. And after ten years of it all... I didn't want to cook for a living any more. All that hustle had drained much of the joy out of cooking for me. Also, around the time that passion was waning, I was getting married to a man who was single dad with sole custody of his toddler son. Not only did I want to have more time to spend with them, but I also wanted to be confident that I had the financial stability to raise a kid.

So I went back to school. I changed careers. I started working for the man. And you know what? It wasn't so bad. In fact, it was pretty great. I had benefits, a reliable income, paid vacation. A RETIREMENT PLAN! Maybe I wasn't creating masterpieces, but I could sleep at night feeling confident my family was provided for.

Working for the man didn't kill my creative side. Instead, it reduced my stress and provided the security I'd needed to feel okay about being creative again. And, a few years after I got married, that creativity started coming out of me not as culinary dishes or paintings or theater, but as words. Words I put together to form stories. I'd always been a voracious reader and a hobby writer--I took AP English in high school and completed a English minor in college and filled notebooks with bad poetry and half finished novel ideas, but writing wasn't "practical" like cooking, so I never thought of it having career potential.

Personally, I'm not sure it ever will. I've learned that, for me, taking a creative passion and turning it into a business risks robbing that passion of its joy. My enthusiasm for writing isn't something I'm willing to jeopardize, so, for now, it makes a damned fine side-hustle. One I'm thrilled I get the privilege to do and hope I'll continue to do for dozens of years. And, by the way, I still love to cook, but for a more limited audience. My friends and family appreciate my efforts, and for now that's more than enough.
Sometimes I'm lucky enough to get to combine my love of cooking, art, and books in efforts like this: "Bookie" Cupcakes I created for a Red Adept Publishing party last year.

1 comment:

Carrie Beckort said...

Great post, Karissa! It does seem as though a writer has 'made it' when they can quite their day job to focus only on writing. I like that you make an argument for the other side. I'm not working right now, but that was for personal reasons and not for writing. The writing came as something to keep me busy during the hours when my daughter is at school. And I agree that turning a passion into the full-time job can sometimes take the joy out of it.

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