I am soooo not a risk taker. I like my life with guarantees, thank you very much, at least when I can get them. Playing it safe always seemed wise while raising five kids and sending them all to college. So that’s my reason for always maintaining my day job (teaching) throughout my writing career. There’s something comforting in knowing that a paycheck will arrive every two weeks and I don’t have to worry about a thirty-five thousand dollar emergency appendectomy for my son.
Did I mention I’m not a risk taker?
I can’t count how many times people have asked me when I’m going to quit teaching and write full time. See above for my answer. It’s not that I haven’t dreamed of the possibility. But in addition to the fact that I enjoy what I do, as I aged insurance and a retirement pension began to take on looming importance.
Of course it’s not like it was ever a real option. Somehow the mortgage needed to be paid and how did I end up with all five kids needing braces? But I had half expected at some point that I’d be able to quit and write full-time. It just never happened.
Primarily because of the sneaking suspicion that I wouldn’t produce any more books a year if I were home full time than working full time, so the trade off probably wouldn’t be financially advantageous. For some reason I need time constraints to produce. I work best under pressure. Which is lucky, because pressure is constant.
These days I’m writing three books a year in addition to teaching. And the schedule can be brutal. I’m a fairly fast writer but my muse has been known to take a side trip or two when I’m most counting on her, leaving me staying up all night on a school night in order to get a book finished and in the mail before heading off to school for the day.
And I’m finding the pace more difficult to keep up. A funny thing happened after fifty…I got tired. I mean want-to-lay-on-the-floor-and-bawl tired. The routine of getting up early, exercising, going to school, coming home to change, exercising and then writing until nine o’clock is starting to wear on me a bit. I’d like to say I don’t sometimes resent having to spend vacations, holidays and weekends writing but that would be a lie. And somewhere around January of each year I start to yearn for the day I can retire to one full-time job.
Maybe it’s my age that is making me consider choices I’ve made and the trade offs involved. Certainly choosing not to write full time has cost me. I haven’t written nearly as many books as I could have if I didn’t teach. I’ve had to turn down projects that—who knows—might have furthered my career more quickly. I do know that I’ll never regret placing writing second to fully enjoying all the activities my kids were in.
And that’s what we all do, in the end. Make choices. Granted, sometimes there are less options to choose from than we’d like, but writers are the most gifted people I know when it comes to juggling family, writing and sometimes outside jobs. I’m not going to say the familiar yearning has entirely subsided. But for at least a few more years, when retirement starts to beckon again, I’ll have to be content dreaming of summer vacation.