Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Longing to Be a Full-Time Writer by Aaron Michael Ritchey

It’s the holy grail of the writer's fevered mind.  It’s winning the gold at the literary Olympics.  Wait, that might be immortality through your writing, like Shakespeare, or Peter Abelard, or Prince.  But, well, before you can become immortal, you have to live, and every writer I know would love to write full-time and make writing his/her day job.

And at cocktail parties, when the question comes up, "So Aaron, what do you do?" I can say, “I’m a full-time writer, yo.”  Eat my shorts.

That’s the dream.  But I know a lot of full-time writers, and I know a lot of successful writers who are still supported by their spouses, and the dream, like most things on this earth, is besmirched.

(I’m gonna bring the word “besmirched” back into fashion, as in, besmirch this, yo.)

So the full-time writers I know are really good at self-promotion, they ghost write, they write dozens of books under dozens of names, and they work at it like nothing else.  It’s not their job they do 40 hours a week, it’s their lifestyle.  Now, they get to do what they love, and they make a living, but it’s not the cushy fantasy I have.

In my fantasy, I get up around noon, go to the mailbox, pick up the fat old royalty check which proves millions of people adore me, then go write for a couple of hours, drinks and shrimp for dinner, swank parties in New York where the light hits me just right (hides the bald spot), and then I wake up the next day and do it all over again.  Checks and adoration and writing.  Sigh.

So reality is, the successful writers I know—successful in the fact they have multiple book contracts, have hit some bestseller lists and even the New York Times bestseller list in anthologies—they have big agents, big houses, big contracts.  And yet, most have spouses who work a day job to support their writing addiction.

But some writers do hit the big leagues and make millions and yeah, hello Fifty Shades of Grey.  Besmirched.

Which brings me back to a conversation I had on Facebook with a friend who wanted to quit his job and write full-time.  I heard author Catherine Ryan Hyde speak at a conference, and she said, “Those people with a back-up plan generally use them when the going gets rough.”  She then blanched at what she said, coughed, and under her breath whispered, “For God’s sake, Catherine, Don’t tell them that.”

Because we writers are a dramatic sort.  We don’t want a contingency plan.  We want to write until our fingers are arthritic and we are alone and that’s when it all gets good.  Alone, poor, selling plasma to eat, writing works of art that will make us immortal once we are dead.  Dramatic.

But what Ms. Hyde was saying is that writing takes full commitment.  You can do a day job and write, most writers throughout history had to do just that, but it’s hard and requires great sacrifice.  For those who want to make it, writing isn’t a hobby, it’s a sacred vocation, like joining the priesthood, or become becoming a monk.  Vocations require sacrifice.

Writing is hard, but to quote A League of Their Own, it’s the hard that makes it good.  Maybe the longing to be the full-time writer is the fantasy that with more time, writing would be easier.  With more time, there would be more motivation.  More time would equal less sacrifice. 

I don’t think that’s the case.  For the most part, being a writer means sacrifice, full-time or not.  If I quit my job, I’d have less money, but yeah, motivation might not be a problem anymore.  As one of my full-time writer friends says, when you’re writing to eat, hunger is the greatest of motivators.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am going to write until I die, whether I become rich and famous, or if I become arthritic and alone, I’m in it until the end.  The nice thing about not experiencing a dream is that you get to live in the fantasy.  I’m published now, and I understand the industry better, and part of me longs for the days when I was naïve and didn’t have an ISBN connected to my name.  I wasn’t besmirched back then.

Now, I get to fantasize about the day when I hit it huge.  Another check?  Another party?  Why yes, I’d love another shrimp, thank you.

About the Writer:  YA Paranormal author Aaron Michael Ritchey has penned a dozen manuscripts in his 20 years as a writer.  When he isn’t slapping around his muse, Aaron cycles to look fabulous, works in medical technologies, and keeps his family in silks and furs.  His first novel, The Never Prayer, hit the streets on March 29, 2012.