Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Dollars Over Sense

Last week at my writing group, I caught some subtle comments (shall I say hints?) about the blog.

“Well, I had to call so-and-so because I didn’t have the prompts,” was one I heard, and I’m sure there was an unsaid second half, something along the lines of “because she hasn’t updated the !$%# blog!”

Both my blogs have been neglected over the past couple of months. It’s certainly not a case of me running out of things to say. Heavens no! The reason I was MIA is one common to writers striving to write for a living. Sometimes the projects that warm your heart leave your checkbook cold. I enjoy writing my blogs, especially since they give me the freedom to write about whatever I want. For some bizarre, Murphy’s Law reason, whatever I get paid to write about is usually diametrically opposed to my interests and passions. Which is one way a writer can get into trouble.

You’ve probably heard the old adage about not leaving your day job – a piece of advice given to all artists, musicians, and other creative types. After I tossed that pearl of wisdom onto the trash heap of my former job, I discovered that I had taken this advice all wrong. When I read “don’t quit your day job,” what I really thought they were saying was, “Of course you haven’t got enough talent to succeed in such a cut-throat, over-crowded, underpaid profession! And how will you get health insurance?! Stick to what you know or you’ll go broke and embarrass yourself.” In the six years since making the leap into full-time writing, I’ve found that one of the quickest way to smother your creativity is by using your talents solely for a paycheck. A day job allows you to pay the bills without spending all your writing time working on projects that leave you brain dead and frustrated.

Early this month, two-thirds of my writing business dried up. It’s a pretty common thing for businesses in Las Vegas to be struggling right now. “Slow” is only the tip of the economic iceberg here in the Foreclosure Capital of America. When I got the news that two of the magazines I was writing for were about to fail, my first thought was that I would finally get to finish my book proposal, one of those “unpaid” things that had fallen to the bottom of my project list. For this entire month, I’ve been working off-line, away from the temptations of the Internet. Bliss. Pure Bliss.

Then the e-mail arrived yesterday - an e-mail with an assignment. Shouldn’t we all be happy to see our editor’s name in our in-box? Shouldn’t we?

Now the challenge becomes how to balance the demands of dollars against my creative desires. Do you think it’s too late to get a day job?

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