Thursday, February 9, 2012

If I had to run for a job as a writer, would I vote for myself?--Carolyn J. Rose

I don’t watch much TV, I limit my radio listening to time spent in the car, and I make a point of skimming past political ads in my daily paper, but it’s almost impossible to avoid being spattered when mudslinging campaigns reach a crescendo.

 When catcalls drown out what I like to think of as sanity, I wonder whether I’d be a writer if I had to campaign and win an election to do it.

That wondering leads to considering the job description, the term of office, and the necessary qualifications. That leads to thoughts of my platform, possible campaign promises, who my supporters might be, and whether I would vote for myself.

And that leads to making lists of my attributes and assets, drawbacks and dirty little secrets.

Well, they’re not that dirty, so get your imagination out of high gear. And before I get to those juicy bits, I’ll spend the next few weeks looking at the job description, at what’s involved in holding down the position of novelist.

Like any job, writing has its good points and bad points, things you love and hate, reasons you signed on and reasons that sometimes you’d like to sign off.

So as not to discourage those who have not yet committed themselves to the writing life, I’ll begin with the positive aspects.

Creative Freedom. What’s not to love about this? As an indie author, I have total control over my plots and characters, over the worlds I create. I can make it rain up a toad floater, send rivers out of their banks, sweep my characters away in the deluge, set their homes on fire. I can make the sun shine, and have a character fall in love or strike it rich. I can make my characters lie, or cheat, or kill, and I can find ways to redeem them. Sure, I get advice and suggestions from my husband and friends, but in the end it’s all up to me.

Schedule. No time clocks. No need to justify time off to the taxpayers. I’m not under contract to a publisher, so my deadlines are my own. If I don’t meet them, I have only myself to reckon with. Some days I might write for ten hours. Some days I write for two or three and devote time to walking the dogs, weeding the garden, reading, or catching up on recorded TV shows.

Wardrobe Requirements. No need for red power suits or flag pins. If I’m at home, anything goes, especially if the blinds are drawn. If I’m at an event, “clean, neat, and covered” about sums it up. I shop at thrift stores and wear shirts and jeans until they beg to be trashed. That translates into more money for items necessary to the writing process such as paper, ink cartridges, sticky notes, index cards, coffee, and salty snacks.

Limited Commute. There might be a few dog toys on the carpet, but there’s never a traffic jam in the hallway between the living room and my office. It’s about 30 steps from my living room to my office, 40 steps if I detour through the kitchen, and I ALWAYS detour through the kitchen.

Travel Opportunities. Forget junkets to Europe or Asia. There’s nothing like the view from the panelists’ table at a conference, a seat in a book-club circle, or a podium in the center of a bookstore.

But there are negative aspects.

Salary. The pay is uneven and uncertain.

Schedule. If you aren’t disciplined enough to make a schedule, avoid distractions (or at least deal with them quickly), and meet your writing goals then, as Yeats said in “The Second Coming,” things fall apart.

Commute. Did I mention the proximity to the kitchen? Did I mention how easy it is to detour past the refrigerator, the snack basket on top of it, and the jar of nuts in the pantry? Did I mention that the commute also takes me past a TV set, two windows, and a pair of dogs always ready to go for a walk or run through their tricks? ‘nuff said.

Physical stress and strain. Carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder pain, back spasms, eyestrain, headaches, a ballooning bottom—they’re occupational hazards

Mental stress and strain. Second-guessing market trends (Will vampires still be a hot ticket hot next year? Will paranormal romances lose their zing before I finish mine? Is anyone out there looking for a crime-fighting, cross-dressing, wastewater engineer? How about a tap-dancing taxidermist who survives a plane crash in Afghanistan?) can make you crazy. Disappointments can bring on depression.

Despite all that, I appointed myself to this job and, so far, I love it. But would I feel the same if there was a definite term of office and book production requirements in order to keep my constituents happy?

I’ll look at that next time.


  1. Trust me, Carolyn, your constituents/readers are very happy. I'd vote for you as novelist--and you might be close in the running as president, too.

  2. Wow, can on work on your campaign? For a free book? Huh?

  3. You had me a "wardrobe requirements"! Is that anything like "wardrobe malfunctions"? Ha! Seriously, throw in free sushi every Tuesday and you've got my vote. Like most Americans, I can be bought . . . cheap. Great musings, Carolyn. :)

  4. I liked your light hearted posting on a serious topic. As an indepently published author you've rejected the feudal system of elitist, self interested gatekeepers and gone directly to the people. It is as if you demolished the electoral college and the IRS in the same move. That's something many Americans would vote for!