Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

Oops, wrong life choice! February 7, 2009

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 1:15 pm
Tags: , , , , ,


2008 was an interesting year. “Interesting” in the sense of that Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

Started off pretty good. I’d got back into my writing again and was loving it, and had a great job that I enjoyed with a work schedule that gave me plenty of time and energy to write when I wasn’t at my job. I finished a 50,000 word story for JanNo, then got stuck into my new story for the Instant Seduction competition. Things looked good, and I was well on target for my goal of completing four stories in the year. Then big changes happened at the Day Job. The small friendly health care company I worked for was taken over by a giant much less friendly one. I was asked to take on a different role, not really knowing what I was letting myself in for. In the space of a couple of months, my dream job morphed into the Job that Ate My Life. Instead of writing stories, I was writing a massive software user guide and training manual, and designing and delivering a completely new three week training programme for new staff. Even worse, I knew that once I had done my job well and delivered the training to enough staff working for the new company at the new site, chances were our small centre would be shut down and the team disbanded. Not a happy time, and not much writing got done. I guessed when I thought the redundancies would happen, researched the likely payoff staff would be given, and it didn’t seem worth waiting for the axe to fall.

So I jumped before I was pushed, and accepted a new job offer one week before the sacking of our entire team was announced. Duh! I really misjudged the timing, and the financial cost of that decision. Not only did it happen months earlier than I thought, the big nasty company actually were very generous in the payouts they offered staff, paying far more than the legal minimum. If I’d waited a week to resign I would have got a juicy package that would have made a biiiiiiig difference to our finances, especially as my husband worked in the same team and was made redundant too but for complex contract reasons got a much smaller payout.

And now three months into the new job I am realising I’ve made a massive mistake. This job is if anything even more life devouring than the old one was! Interesting role, great team, fantastic opportunities for education and career progression. Ten or fifteen years ago, when I was a bit more ambitious and career orientated, it would have been the perfect job for me. Now, it’s just not what I want. At the time I thought it was what I wanted, but I was wrong. I don’t want a job that takes 12 hours out of my day. I don’t want a job that needs me to study and research in my own time. I don’t want a job where I come home worrying about my patients and waking up dreaming about them. I don’t want a job that allows me to make excuses about having no time to write.

Oops, wrong life choice! So easy to make these decisions which aren’t aligned to our real goals. I even spent some time telling myself that I really didn’t have the talent to write, so I should just give up on writing and make the most of the new job. It really is a fabulous job after all. Plus I don’t want to let the team down. I don’t want to let my patients down. I don’t want to feel that I haven’t kept my end of the bargain with my employer, having gone into the interviews happy and optimistic and “Yes, I can do this!” I don’t want to have to admit that I tried something and I failed, that it was just too hard for me. And I do still have to earn enough money to keep this household going, so taking time out to focus on writing isn’t an option. No guarantee that if I find another job it won’t turn out to be the same.

But I feel the decision has been made now. I really do know what is right for me. I’m going to look for a different job and resign. I spoke to my manager a couple of weeks ago, discussed my concerns that it wasn’t the job for me, allowed myself to be easily convinced that I was expecting too much of myself, it was early days, stick in there. Last weekend, out for coffee with a girlfriend, we talked about this, and it was the opposite way around. She was all for me going for another job, I argued myself out of it and decided no, I should stay. It’s the “shoulds” not the “wants tos” that are keeping me there. I know it’s not the job that is right for me, right now.

Do I have the courage to admit I made a mistake, to stop now before both my employer (in expensive training) and I put any more energy into this wrong choice. Can I go back, try again with another less demanding job, make writing my primary focus? Because that’s a risky choice. If I relegate writing to the sidelines, to the cracks and crevices, and get nowhere with it, I can go on being a wannabe and a couldabeen. I can still always wonder if I might have succeeded if only life circumstances had been different, can still kid myself that I do have the talent, I just didn’t have the time.

The flip side of that, if I commit to my writing and go for it wholeheartedly, is that if I still don’t get published, I have to accept that I just don’t have it. That I really don’t have that indefinable something that makes one writer’s stories a must read and another’s with the same premise ho hum. If I go for it, there are no more excuses.

That’s scary. Very scary.


5 Responses to “Oops, wrong life choice!”

  1. Eileen Says:

    It is scary, isn’t it? It’s equally terrifying for me now that I’ve made writing my “life choice” … it feels a little like I’ve come out of the writing closet, so to speak. This is the life I’ve chosen for myself and it’ll define everything I do. Well, really, it’s defining the training I get and the jobs I’m (un)qualified to take. I’m boxing myself into the world of academia now. I like that world (I think) but right now (today especially) I’d love to not teach for a whole month and spend that month writing warm, mushy romance novels.

  2. waitingforthecall Says:

    Hey, I am so glad you visited! I’ve been wondering how things were for you and keep forgetting to drop by your blog to catch up. You know that feeling, “Oh damn, I meant to go to…” just as I switch off the laptop.
    How is teaching and the MFA going? I think you have the sort of writing ability that means you could write just about anything- from the more literary stories I guess your “day job” requires to the deep emotions of the best romance. Are you still aiming for paranormal romance?
    I have some good news today. I interviewed for another job that though it will be probably just as demanding in time, will be not nearly so emotionally draining, plus is waaaaay better paid- and I got it! I don’t want to get too excited too soon, but this has got to equal more writing time. My day will be just as long, but the commute is by train not car so I can write or read while I travel, and I think I will get a lunch break that is more than gobbling a yoghurt while I write up casenotes. Plus I think I will be a lot less likely to wake at 3am worrying about my patients. We’ll see!
    Oh yes, a month to focus on writing a romance, nothing else, to immerse ourselves in our characters. That’s my idea of bliss. The stupidly annoying thing, which I think I am still grieving, is that if I hadn’t rushed into resigning from my last job, I would have received enough redundancy pay to stay home and write for a couple of months. Major crystal ball malfunction there!
    Hopefully we’ll both get some good writing time soon to focus on fun stories!

  3. Eileen Says:

    That’s wonderful about the job!

  4. Eileen Says:

    Re: paranormal romance … I haven’t worked on it in months! I really should. The thoughts are still there floating around somewhere. So many of the paranormal romances I read are so awful (really thin plots/paranormal elements) that I really want to do something better just to make myself happy as a reader!

  5. waitingforthecall Says:

    That’s the best way- when we write the books that we want to read!

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