I've asked a few of my friends to share their thoughts on writing. Christopher Geoffrey McPherson is the author of the James Murray mystery series. He joins us today to talk about the realities of the writer's life -- job or write?
Me and Kobayashi Maru
I recently heard a statistic that said something like this: by the year 2020, nearly half of all workers will be freelancers. That’s a pretty amazing number. Me, I’ve been a freelance writer most of my professional life. It offers so much freedom. I’m as busy as I want to be, I can take off work whenever I want, and I never have an argument with the boss. On the other hand (and there’s always another hand, isn’t there?) I’m constantly having to job hunt, I have no idea how much income I’ll end up with at the end of the year, and it’s really impossible to plan to do anything big (like home repair or traveling).
In an ideal world, I would make a living with my writing. Or, things would cost so little that I could afford to live on my writing income.
Oh, sure: writing used to pay well. For many years I was making enough from my writing to not have to worry about other income. Well, that gravy train left the station long ago as I stood there waving a tearful goodbye. That left me with a choice: either get a full-time job and quit writing, or keep writing and be poor. However, when faced with this Kobayashi Maru-like situation, I decided to pull a Captain Kirk and come up with a third option: a part-time job.
This part-time job solution works pretty well. I found a job where I work three days a week (twenty hours) and have two entire days free to write. I spend those writing days doing freelance projects or my novels. While not the ideal solution, it’s really the best of both worlds: I have an income I can rely on but I also have days free to write. Usually, this works out well -- unless I’m on a roll and writing hot and heavy. It’s pretty frustrating to put on the brakes, close the laptop and say goodbye to my exciting characters to go out and earn a living. Although I try to not write on weekends (to spend time with my spouse) I can use that time, if necessary. And, it sometimes becomes necessary when a publication date is looming.
I’ve been pretty fortunate to find a part-time job I enjoy doing and one that brings in enough income to allow me freedom to write. Maybe one of my novels will be a breakout and bring in more income and allow me to return to writing full time. Maybe not. The personal goal I set for myself is to write and complete these novels. As far as I’m concerned, sales, readers, reviews and movie deals are all icing on the cake.
In addition to many years experience writing for newspapers, magazines and radio, Christopher Geoffrey McPherson is the author of six novels, a collection of short stories and a book for children about where cats go when they die. He has published two novels in his “James Murray Mystery” series, with the third due out in June. He is married to his cover designer, Matt, and enjoys living in their historic bungalow in downtown Phoenix.