In this series of guest posts, I have asked a number of writers and editors to share the price they pay for pursuing their creative passion or what they sacrifice–whether that is money, time or lost opportunities. It might be how they pay the bills that writing doesn’t, or how they juggle working for a living or raising a family with the time it takes to write or edit. The people who have contributed have shared their personal stories in the hope it might help those new to the scene manage their expectations, or help others dealing with similar things realise they aren’t alone. You can read about the inspiration for this series here, and if you want to be part of it please let me know. Our next guest is one of my favourite people, Laura E. Goodin.
I’ve run the gamut: living alone and writing while working full time and going to grad school at night; living alone and writing while on the dole; living with my husband and being the one earning more money, less money, no money. I’ve had demanding professional jobs, and demanding menial jobs, and menial jobs that didn’t even begin to interest me. I’ve run my own business while doing my Ph.D. and trying to scavenge writing time. I’ve been at home with a baby; I’ve been a working mom with a working husband and a child with a demanding schedule; I’ve been an empty-nester.
Through all of that, I’ve found that my success (as measured by publications, performances, and participation at cons) correlates almost not at all with my life circumstances. The only time in my life where the writing nearly stalled completely was while I was working in a highly demanding more-than-full-time job where I had to jump to a pager at all hours of the day and night for years. And even then, I held onto my writing dream by my fingernails (one story I wrote during those years eventually got published on the BBC4 web site, which still makes me very happy).
That said, some situations have been easier than others. I had one blissful year where I wrote full-time, supported by my husband, and our kid was old enough not to need 24-hour care, before I had to go back to work. My productivity soared. In contrast, at times when I have a lot of editing work (that’s my small business), I find that it dries up the word juju quite alarmingly. When I was in the throes of my Ph.D., not much else got written. The supply of words may or may not be limited but the supply of my ability to process and produce them is.
At the moment, I’m still running the editing business, and I’m commuting between Melbourne and Sydney two days a week to teach at a tertiary institution. The teaching money helps when the editing isn’t coming in, and – oddly – teaching doesn’t deplete my word juju the way editing does. The editing hasn’t, in fact, been coming in recently, and I’m finding that writing consistently is far less of a problem. Moreover, my husband, who is more steadily employed at the moment, is paying the majority of the bills, which takes a lot of the pressure off.
Several factors have consistently forced their way into my writing equation:
- Job: the number of hours and amount of word juju, focus, and energy it requires
- Family: the number of hours and the intensity of interaction required and desired
- Extracurricular activities (I’m prone to these, and it has probably slowed my writing career down quite a bit, but it’s given me a lot more to write about, and is good for my soul)
- Degree to which I’m either enthusiastic or discouraged about my writing at any given time
Balancing these – minimizing, maximizing, mitigating – is a moment-to-moment thing. I’ve long since given up on grand announcements (“THIS is the year my writing career really takes off!”), and I’ve begun to recognize that the bouts of black certainty that I completely suck and always will are, in fact, temporary. After eight years of writing seriously, during which all those factors have oscillated wildly, I’m noticing the peaks and troughs are flattening, and my energy is going less into climbing and falling than into just going forward. Some of that is the onset of middle age (which for the most part I’m relishing, by the way), and some is the slow accretion of data that yes, I am a writer. If I haven’t given it over by now, I’m not going to.
American-born writer Laura E. Goodin has been writing professionally for over 30 years. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Michael Moorcock’s New Worlds, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Adbusters, Wet Ink, The Lifted Brow, and Daily Science Fiction, among others, and in several anthologies. Her plays and libretti have been performed on three continents, and her poetry has been performed internationally, both as spoken word and as texts for new musical compositions. She attended the 2007 Clarion South workshop, and has a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Western Australia.
You can find out more by visiting her website.