Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Making a living as a writer

Lucky, indeed, it must be for those who go to work and are able to write what they want to say or who are otherwise able to make a living from expressing themselves. I’ve never found such a position, though I’ve tried to find jobs that, I thought, would tap into my writing and research skills, perhaps strengthening them along the way. I have worked as a newspaper reporter and a reference/research librarian; now I work part-time from home as an editor. But none of these jobs have let me write what I wanted to write, or what I would have written had I had the freedom to express myself fully.

And after a working day spent on a computer, it has been difficult to sit down again to write when it’s late in the evening, after dishes are washed and children have been put to bed—especially when my neck already hurts from too much time already spent looking at a monitor.  (I never had shoulder and neck problems until I began to use a computer. Now I have sporadic bouts of arthritis that is more likely to occur after hours spent on the computer, which makes reading difficult on some evenings and writing by hand, also, a pain in the neck.)

I often wish I had pursued the degree in Botany that I had, fleetingly, wanted after taking one class in Field Botany. Or that I could raise herbs for restaurants for a living or in some other way get fresh air and/or exercise before returning to this interior life of putting words on paper or into a computer.  If I had known that physical therapy existed when I was in college, I might have gotten an additional degree in it, just to be around people during work hours and to be, on some level, physical.

Both journalism and librarianship these days mean hours on a computer, often with little people contact except by email and by phone. So, though I have played to my strengths in my career choices so far, I don’t think I’ve nourished my life as a writer, in both a physical and social context.

Which brings me to the topic of this month’s Call Out to Writers: How do you reconcile your writing life with your career? I’d love to hear from other writers who have found a way to make money from their writing, or who work in a career that offers rich contact and context/experience. Send your submissions by November 12, for publication sometime later this month.

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