27 May 2014

Rachel Carson

Happy birthday to Rachel Carson (1907 – 1964), arguably the most important person in the ongoing fight to protect the environment.

Remember, we only have one planet.

15 May 2014

Writing vs Wages

I’ve been writing regularly since high school: newspapers, magazines, radio news and documentaries, and a little bit of television. For a vast majority of those years, I earned enough money to do it full-time; for a smaller percentage of those years, I had to write while working an official job. (And, during all those years, no matter how successful I was at writing and earning a good living and winning awards, my mother would ask me: “When are you going to get a real job?”)

In the mid 1990s, I lost my regular newspaper gig. I ended up with a good job at a large corporation. Although not part of my official duties, they let me write for and occasionally edit the in-house publication and other communication materials. I continued doing freelance newspaper writing part-time. Before I knew it, I had been at the company fifteen years, earning a great salary and magnificent benefits.

Then, friends of mine, nearly my age, started to die -- suddenly. I was never one to question my own mortality; but I did start to think: if I died today, would I be happy with my legacy?

Despite decades of writing, the answer was a sound “no.” Even with all my professional writing, the works for which I had the most passion -- my novels -- were languishing. Who can work full time and still write novels? I tried and couldn’t make it work. So, I talked it over with my spouse and quit my secure, well-paying corporate job so that I could create the novels I needed to be happy.

My intent was to get a part-time job (twenty hours a week) and write the other twenty hours. That sounded fair and was financially doable. Of course, it took me more than a year to find a job I was interested in doing that would only require twenty hours a week. But before I found that job, I wrote like a fiend. I polished off two manuscripts and published them; I polished and published a handful of short stories; I turned a screenplay of mine into my third novel; and then embarked on my first “new” novel. That was followed by the first novel in a planned five-book series about a boy detective in 1930s Los Angeles. [You can see them all listed on the right hand side of this page.]

Now, I work three days a week and write two; that makes it pretty easy to shift gears between my (non-writing) part-time gig and my personal writing. I have a boss who not only supports my writing, but has also bought, read and enjoyed (she says) nearly all my novels. Sure, my salary is significantly lower than it was, and I get no benefits; but, I’m doing what I’ve always loved (writing), focusing on what’s really important to me now and actually creating a legacy that I would not be embarrassed to have represent me after I’m long gone.