Writerly Advice, Number 13:  Dress For The Mailman

by Kasey Michaels

Recently, a Ninc member came on to Ninclink* with a question, asking advice for a female writer about to quit her day job and take that giant leap into writing full time and being the sole support of her family.

*If you qualify for membership, and have not yet joined Ninc, Ninclink alone is worth the low price of admission!

Ninc members help Ninc members, it’s one of the many beauties of being a member of Novelists, Inc. There was lots of great advice appearing on Ninclink within minutes of this member’s post. Including mine. Someone—a few someone’s – suggested I share my impromptu list, which is why you’re reading this now.

Each person is different, but what I've learned over the years of being where this writer is heading now is listed below, from the practical, to the sanity-saving, to the “Oh, I’m not the only one!” Permission to forward is happily given. Enjoy!

1. Health care insurance is horribly expensive for the self-employed. But eat generic peanut butter sandwiches on store-brand bread three meals a day before you give it up. Murphy's Law applies double for the self-employed, I swear it.

2. All those nifty disability promises/programs for credit cards and other sorts of disability insurance -- you're hurt, we'll pay...if you pay us X amount of dollars a month now -- don't apply to the self-employed in many states. These people truly believe you can continue working if you have to do it with a pencil stuck between your front teeth. Always check the fine print before you put out bucks for that sort of promise.

3. Pay your quarterlies, local, state, federal. Even if you can't pay it all, pay something. We all know what happens to a snowball when it begins rolling downhill.

4. Get a good CPA to do your tax returns.

5. Check your local township, borough, whatever, to be sure they don't now require a license -- even though you may be working in a converted bedroom and have no “impact” on the neighborhood. Many insist on the license (and license fee), and that you now begin paying business taxes on top of everything else you're paying.

6. Listen with a straight face and profound nods when other people tell you that you must build firm boundaries around your writing time and be willing to enforce them. They never met your family.

7. If you ever thought you were an “artist,” slap yourself repeatedly until the notion leaves you. You are now a worker with more responsibility than any three people should have; you can't afford to be an artist. Kick your muse to the curb, replace it with a weekly look at your checkbook balance.

8. Know and accept that everyone else in the world thinks you can put down and pick up your chapter-in-progress at any time without missing a beat, as if our books were knitting projects.

9. Know that everyone in your family and circle of friends firmly believes he/she is the ONLY one who understands you need to work, and that he/she is the ONLY one who doesn't pest you. The truth is, they ALL pest you, but saying this makes them feel better.

10. Build extra time into any writing project because of 8 and 9. You'll need it. You're now the one who can pick up anybody’s sick child from nursery school. You're now the one who can take everyone to the doctor. You're the one who, yes, can be summoned just as you’re typing, “And the murderer is —” or “I love you, Sheila. I love you because—” by one of the Everybody who thinks he's the only one who doesn't disturb your writing time: “Got a minute? You have to come see this thing on TV. Some guy taught his chimpanzee how to use a cell phone – and you still don’t know how to retrieve your voice mail!”

11. Buy only half the “goodies” you used to keep around the house, because you'll eat all of them anyway. Hide your scale, you've got enough to worry about (note: I have recently begun an exercise program. I’ve moved my M&M’s jar to a different desk in my office, and must now get up and actually move in order to grab a handful).

12. Never feel guilty that you can't maintain the strict schedule of another writer. That person is either the luckiest person in the history of the world...or he/she lies like a rug.

13. Buy pajamas that can be seen by the mailman.

14. Stay in said pajamas as much as possible, as people are less prone to beg you to join them to go somewhere when they know it's going to take you an hour or more to be ready to go. This does not always work to your advantage, especially when the aforementioned kid(s) gets sick at nursery school.

15. Remember, you do not have a wife. Male writers “create.” Female writers with husbands and families and dirty laundry and dusty tables accomplish five times as much as male writers, and in half the time. No, this doesn't make you feel better when you are scrubbing a bathroom at midnight and muttering under your breath, "And now, students, observe the famous writer in her natural habitat..."

16. You will long to clean closets while on deadline, yearn to be at the computer when finished and now facing that disorganized closet. You will almost constantly want to be wherever it is you can't be, doing whatever it is that sounds like a lot more fun than what you're doing at the time.

17. Open the front door once in a while. Don't be frightened --it's just fresh air. Full seasons can pass otherwise, without your notice.

18. Don't give up your health insurance, never give up your health insurance. That bears repeating.

Kasey has been writing professionally for over thirty years, and is the bestselling author of over one hundred novels. She’d write a longer bio, but she really doesn’t have the time — she has to go to the grocery store now, to pick up a few things for her 96-year-old father. But you can read more about her at www.kaseymichaels.com

Posted by Patricia Rosemoor

Filed as: The Writing Life