This morning, as I was eating breakfast, I realized I know what my dream job is. I even know where it is. In fact, if I wanted to, I could walk to and from my Dream Job’s location.
If you’re guessing that my Dream Job is writing and that I can walk to my writing desk, you would be partially correct. To write well is my Dream, but I do not want it to be my Job. The definition of ‘job,’ to me, involves doing things I don’t love in exchange for money. It is sitting in traffic, parking on the top deck of the garage, attending meetings, being bombarded by ten different conversations in a cube farm when I’m trying to concentrate, cleaning the mess my co-workers leave behind them at the coffee bar, counting down until 5 on Friday. Don’t misunderstand: I have a great job. I work with awesome people, get to spend the majority of my time writing (technical stuff, but still, it’s writing!), and get paid fair compensation that comes with a kick-ass amount of PTO. I’m not bitching about my job. I’m simply saying that it is a Job because it is something I have to do in order to get by in life. It is not what I was born to do. It is not what I’m best at, or even what I love. It is simply a way to exchange my time and my intellect for money.
The crux of it all.
I love the idea of making money off of my book because that means people are buying it and, with any luck, reading what I’ve taken the time and care to create. What matters to me about a sale is that it represents a reader, that the story is being found by people who are meant to find it. The sale isn’t about the money, although I do charge. The reality is that my life is cost-driven; I have bills to pay, food to buy, and retirement plans to consider. At the very least, I want to make back what I spent to produce the book because that’s money that came straight out of the Bank of Mr. and Mrs. Aniko. Vacation money. New counter money. Money for emergency vet visits. I can’t afford to give away my books. And that’s where things get weird. I need to make money, but I don’t want writing to ever have any aspect of job-ness to it. I want it to remain a pure act of creation, not driven by the money monster. I don’t ever want my writing to become my Job because then there will be unavoidable need to monetize my dream, to compromise, to do things because I need a payday.
Does this mean I would reject the opportunity to make tons of money off of my writing? No. What it means is that I’m not making the acquisition of money the focus of my writing. I am making writing the focus, the creation of worlds the focus, the telling of stories the focus. Foci! That’s a fun word: foci. Foci, foci, foci… focus! My goal is to write original, entertaining stories that are authentically mine. At this point, that means that I have no desire to seek out a publisher or agent, because I see those things as guarantors of compromise. I don’t need to be rich, I don’t want to be famous, and I don’t need or want my writing to be my income. I’m not saying this to wave a pro-Indie banner from my parapet. I’m not saying this to be self-righteous or holier than thou towards those writers who wish to make writing synonymous with their income. I’m just saying how I, Aniko Carmean, feel about my writing and how I choose to view and manage the relationship of my writing to making money. I am happy for everyone who lands a publishing contract and for everyone who makes it big as an indie. I’m not happy with people who make it big and then turn their blogs into self-aggrandizing sales pitches or non-stop guest posts. But that’s a different topic…
What I would love is only have to work part-time to pay my bills. Then I would have more time to write, and would still be keeping the pressure of payday away from my art. At this stage in my financial lifecycle, I can’t even begin to consider part-time work, but I’m planning for it. I’m aligning my finances so that I can retire from full-time work. Not in the next year or two, but not too far from now, either. I hear some of you out there making those little tutt-tutt noises, those noises that indicate I can only choose to do that because I’ll be living off of Mr. Aniko, how lucky for me! Not true, ya’ll. Not that he wouldn’t do that and hasn’t already offered, either. The fact is, I want to be totally debt-free (including the mortgage), have a decent retirement fund being actively managed, and know that even if Mr. Aniko had to fly offworld and leave me behind, I could pay for everything I require and still not have to worry about my future, old-lady monetary needs. I want to help us build a stronger, more financially secure future where one or both of us could decide to work part-time and still have money to buy good food and comfortable shoes. I want that security, even if it means I have to wait a bit to pursue my Dream Job. Even if I have to put a price on my books – a fair price, but still a price. Even if it means that I keep writing in the pre-dawn dark, hours before I go to my Job. Write on the weekends, instead of hosting parties. Write when I’m tired, cold, or nervous about a meeting. It’s not easy to balance the writing with the working with the living. But I do it because it is what I have to do. I work for money, but I write to live.
Even if, someday, my book sales are steady and make me money, I want to maintain a part-time job to keep the pressure of making ends meet off of my writing. If I have to have a Job, I may as well aim for my Dream Job. Which is, you ask?
To work part time at the liquor store down the street.
That’s it. I want to purvey oblivion. I want to stand between the cash register and the expensive or tiny bottles, the things that people would be tempted to steal. I want to have one of those cushy, gray mats under my feet. When the store is empty of customers, I want to be able to look at the rows of bottles and hear the hum of the cooler chilling the beer and the white wine. I want to use the hand truck to move around cases of Captain Morgan’s. I want to pour those teeny little plastic glasses at the taste-test station. I want to dust the glass bottles, all those different shapes and hues. I want to have a basket of limes and lemons, so that people don’t have to make a second stop to adorn their drinks. I want to work part time, get to know the regulars, be the first to hear about a new vodka, and spend the rest of my time writing.
What about you? Do you want your writing to be your living? Do you like the word foci?
Jonathan D. Allen reviewed Stolen Climates! I’m a huge fan of his writing and, because of that, feel a little bad about the whole breakfast burrito thing. Check out the review and, please, leave him a comment!
On May 7th, I’ll be interviewing Hunter Shea, author of Forest of Shadows and the forthcoming novel, Evil Eternal. Mark your calendars! The questions are fun, and there will be an excerpt from Evil Eternal.
And finally, but still totally rocking in awesomeness, I have been invited to participate in an Author Spotlight Interview over at Strange Amusements. Go live date for the interview is TBD, but I’ve got the questions, and they are wonderful! I’ll keep you posted.
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