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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

RUNNING FOR A JOB AS A WRITER--PART TWO


 


I’m continuing my look at whether I’d be a writer if I had to be elected to the position. Previously I reviewed the benefits and drawbacks of the job; now I’ll consider the term of office and job performance standards (defined as the number of books I could write during a term of office), and take a look at my constituents and how I’ll reach them.

Supreme Court Justices serve for life or until they’re fed up with attorneys arguing and with having to defend decisions plenty of people don’t like. Then they retire. But those folks are appointed and confirmed by high-ranking office-holders, none of whom would be likely to appoint or confirm me—to the high court or any other post. So I’d have to run for my office.

The question is: How often do I want to do that? What are the pros and cons of a 2-year, 4-year, or 6-year term as a writer?

I called together a focus group at a Hawaiian restaurant noted for its low-priced happy hour adult beverages. Long after dark we emerged with several damp and ink-blotched napkins. Two days later my vision cleared and I was able to decode them and write out the pros and cons in more legible form.

2-year term
As members of my focus group pointed out, it takes me about a year to write a novel. Two years equals two books—not exactly the greatest job performance on record and not a huge body of work on which to base a re-election campaign, especially since I’d need to begin that campaign before I completed the second work, and especially since said campaign would eat into my writing time.

4-year term
If I kept up my pace, I could have at least three books written before I had to hit the campaign trail. That would give me more time to build a larger platform, do more marketing, and reach more members of my constituency.

6-year term
This would give me even more time to write before I had to run. But wait. Do I have enough of an idea backlog to write five novels? (Picture me counting on my fingers. Picture the thumb standing alone. Picture me deciding that four years would be just fine.)

But this leads to another question: Where the heck would my campaign trail lead? How large is my constituency? And where is my constituency?

Well, with internet marketing and ever-increasing sales of e-books, even if you’re with a small press or an indie publisher, you have the potential to reach a national audience—add the UK and other European nations that audience is international.

Yikes.

My budget barely stretches to a long weekend at the coast. How can I afford to campaign across the entire U.S. and Europe?

Wait a minute! I forgot that key word—internet. There’s no need to press the flesh, kiss babies, or wave signs except in a virtual way. My friends—all way better at social networking than I am—might pitch in to come up with slogans and increase my positive name recognition (now limited to a few square blocks of Vancouver and about a hundred people who took my novel-writing class and are still speaking to me without gritting their teeth).

But what will I stand for? What will I promise to cut or do away with? What are my assets? And what are my dirty little secrets?

I’ll look at that next time.

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.