The writing myth I’m going to debunk is a biggie. It’s big enough, in fact, to stop the faint-hearted in their tracks. (Although I’ve found that we don’t have a lot of faint-hearted readers here at the Ball, so you’re probably safe.)
I remember vividly the day I read this in a magazine–probably “Writer’s Digest.” I was already subscribing to “Writer’s Digest,” which in some way meant that I was considering a future as an author. There were probably several early drafts of “Bad Girls Don’t Die” stacked up in a closet somewhere, and, if I place the incident correctly in my memory, I was working the job from hell.
I can’t recall the exact phrasing, but it was basically, “Even if you sell a book, chances are better than good that you won’t be able to quit your day job.”
Like, sorry, what?
In all of my romantic notions about what it meant to be a writer, one aspect was high on the list: I could finally quit my day job!
And by including a few figures indicating the realities of advances, agency commissions, etc., the article effectively skewered my dream (which is sad… every writer wants to reach and educate his or her readers, but I’m pretty sure nobody sets out to skewer).
So, if I couldn’t quit my job, how was I going to have time to spend all day at my giant Cape Cod house, typing away, in my silky pajamas?
It hit me hard–not devastatingly, but hard. It could have been a deal-breaker, as if you were at a car dealership looking at a pretty decent car for $20,000, and then the sales guy comes out and tells you it’s actually $40,000. What do you do? You walk away. You don’t cry–it’s not your car yet. You didn’t actually lose anything. But the deal is broken. You’re not going to go after that particular car.
I can’t remember what it was that made me decide to keep writing. Probably because I’d already spent so much time writing in the early morning and late at night, across lonely weekends and during solitary work lunches, that I figured I was in for a penny, might as well be in for a pound.
It probably had something to do with the fact that I happen to enjoy writing, and I had long before bonded with my characters: Alexis, Carter, Megan, Kasey.
And it probably had something to do with the vague idea that, well, yeah, maybe you can’t quit your day job when you sell your first book, but what about the books after that? Or the one after that? Eventually, you’ll get there, if you keep trying… right?
Turns out, uh, the one after the first one and the one after that aren’t necessarily enough to get you out of a day job entirely. They may be enough to give you a few months off if your day job, ahem, dissolves, but I haven’t bought those silky pajamas yet.
But you know, I like the work, and I’m in for a penny. Besides, call me crazy, but I kind of like my goofy cotton pajama pants from Target.