Paying for Our Passion – Jean Gilbert

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.

As I have previously mentioned, my trip to New Zealand resulted in me meeting a heap of new people, and they made me feel incredibly welcome. Not only were they extremely friendly, but there is a massive concentration of talented writers in NZ, and today another one of them joins us–Jean Gilbert! 

I have two jobs, one as a surgical assistant, the other, as a writer.  I spend around 20 hours or more a week on each.  Though I’d love to write full time as a career, I don’t make enough yet to give up my day job. I still need to bring in some money to help supplement the household income. It is hard being divided between to jobs.

I work for a Paediatric Dental specialist, both surgical and clinical. This is a mentally challenging job. There is no room for mistakes. Concentration must be complete at all times. So when I come home, and I have to write, it becomes a challenge because by this point, I am mentally exhausted. To compensate, I have to lie down and have a mental break (nap) so that I can start afresh.  Otherwise writing became a struggle, and led to frustration, and a sense of unworthy. On the days I don’t work, I do a lot better, and am more productive in my writing.


For a while, I was drifting, writing when I felt inspired, instead of viewing it as a job.  It was when there were a lot of family issues, health and otherwise, and I used writing as a means of escape, a place where I was in control when my world was falling apart around me. As you can imagine, it took me longer to write my first novel.  That’s when I introduced a schedule, and made myself stick to it, which meant sometimes turning down fun things like socializing with friends and family, reading, movies, TV, even vacations, all sacrificed on the alter of producing a piece of work by a deadline. I missed out on summer this year to meet monthly word counts.

Was it worth it?


A schedule may be painful, but it works. And when the family gets involved in the decision-making, everyone is happy. They can’t come back and say that they want you for this or that when you’re in the middle of writing. You just point to the schedule that they agreed upon. Of course, I try to be flexible when I can be. But a deadline is a deadline, even when it’s of my own making.

Shifter ebook cover

At first, my family didn’t understand my passion.  They thought it was just a thing that would fade away. But now, they are very supportive, giving me the time I need to write, criticism when I ask for it, encouragement when I’m low, and money to support my works.  It wasn’t always this way, and for a time I struggle alone, not being able to share my joy and pain with anyone. But that has all changed, and for now, things are good.

As far as money is concerned, I haven’t made enough to pay for my writing yet. So, I have to use the family money to pay for things like editing, artwork, book covers, advertising, trips, etc. It adds up.  The cost is figured into the budget. Some things I have to pass on or postpone because the money isn’t there for it.

It is hard to get noticed without money to push your work out there.

I write, not for the money, but because of the love of the story. The story is what keeps me going, and if it brings other people pleasure, well, I couldn’t ask for anything more.


Speculative writer Jean Gilbert moved from Virginia, U.S. to New Zealand in 2005, and has since called the Waikato Valley (the Shire) her home. Jean is a Core member of SpecFicNZ, and is also the coordinator for SpecFicNZ Central.  Jean’s latest science fiction novels are titled Shifters and Ardus from the Vault Agency Series published by Rogue House Publishing. You can find her short stories in Baby Teeth: Bite Size Tales of Terror published by Paper Road Press, and Pride in Contact Light Anthology.  Read more about Jean at, or visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

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