Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Part-Time Full-Time Writer

I'm a full-time writer.  But I write part-time.


Let me explain.

I've got a full-time job which, for the most part, pays the bills.  (My advance for my debut YA novel should come in handy when it arrives, but it's not going to keep me afloat forever.)  I seriously envy those writers whose fame and/or life circumstances and/or willpower and/or ability to give up creature comforts enable them to forego the "pay-the-bills" job.  Those people are awesome.

But they're not me.

When my daughter was a baby, I had a part-time job that enabled me to stay home with her two out of five weekdays.  I'm so glad I had that opportunity.  She's not a baby anymore, but we're still very close, and I'm convinced those early daddy days are what cemented our relationship.

Now, though, I teach full-time.  I have summers off and all that, but during the school year, I'm on campus most of the week.  And my circumstances don't enable me to change that--or at least, not without changing the living conditions of three additional people whose needs and desires I don't feel it's my right to ignore.

So I write part-time.  But I'm a full-time writer.

This means two things to me:

First, when I have the time to write, I write as if it's the only thing in my life.  I concentrate on the writing, logging as much solid, uninterrupted time at the keyboard as I possibly can.  I find music and television (not to mention Facebook, Twitter, and other social media) distracting when I write, so I resist the impulse to have noise in the background and multiple windows open on the computer.  When I'm writing, I write.

But more importantly, when I say I'm a full-time writer, I mean that writing is one of the things--though not the only thing--that defines me as a person, full-time.  It's the same, actually, as being a father: though I'm not with my kids every moment of the day (for which, I assure you, they're profoundly grateful), there's never a moment of any day that I don't think of myself as a dad.  Same with being a husband.  Like most married people, my wife and I are only together part-time, thanks to jobs and family and friends and so forth.  But I'm never not a husband.  It's who I am.

I'm also never not a fan of fantasy literature and film, never not a social activist and environmentalist, never not a teacher, never not a lover of language and bad jokes and frogs and gorillas.  I may never see another frog or gorilla in my life--though the former are pretty numerous at the pond near my home--but I've always loved them, and I love them every moment of my life to this day.

Writing can't be a full-time job for everyone.  But that doesn't mean you can't be a full-time writer.

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