Thursday, 30 September 2010

Work Blues

August and September has been an odd couple of months for me. I've had a lot of fun in the blogging world, met lots of new writing friends, took part in a couple of blogfests, and had my first paid-for story published. But I only submitted eight stories - three were rejected and, until last week, only one of them was accepted. I’ve only had two stories accepted in two months and I'm still awaiting the fate of the other three. I need to be writing more.

Yesterday was my first day back at work after a ten-day holiday. If I thought things were stressful before I went on holiday, they seemed ten times worse when I got back. I can't say too much because I'm not allowed to discuss 'work' online. Think not enough staff and no overtime, and you get an idea of what it is like.

Mid-afternoon I went for a break and as I sat there sipping my coffee I had this thought: I've been here 18 years, am I really going be still here in 18 more?By the time I got home I felt thoroughly sorry for myself and then admonished myself with the perennial realisation that there are people far worse off than me. But of course that doesn't really help when I had such a great holiday, with all the time I wanted to write. I'm back to my own day-to-day reality and I don't like it.

When I awoke this morning I looked myself in the mirror and told myself the only person who can make a change is me and to stop feeling sorry for myself. But here is my dilemma: do I concentrate on writing short stories for the women’s magazine market, which is not really my preferred option, and hope I can start earning enough of an income to cut down on my work hours and start writing my novel? Or, do I take a risk and write the novel I've always wanted to write and hope that it might one day be published?

When I've spoken to friends and family about this, they've all said, "But why can't you do both?” Realistically, I know I don't have time for both; I want writing to be enjoyable, not a constant struggle. And writing a novel is enough hard work, I think.

Now add to my dilemma that I have been thinking of taking a career break. I’ve got enough shares saved that could cover a six-month loss in salary. But there is a big problem with that option – when I return I wouldn’t be guaranteed the same job or even the same amount of hours. Given those circumstances, in't it too big a risk?

What would you do? Are you facing the same kinds of dilemmas? I'd love you know your thoughts.


  1. Ellie, Oh Ellie, I want to give you a BIG HUG. Yes I would say have a go at the novel. You can always go back to short stories if the muse takes you. Della Galton advises that although it is possible to write to a formula for specific mags, you do much better if you write from the heart. So go for it girl and write what you feel you want to write not what you feel you ought to write. :O)

  2. Not sure what to advise as far as my heart is concerned! Rather, I'll take the perspective "If I were you..." That feels safer! My feeling is that a stale job breeds stale ideas anyway! What if you started looking for a new job while you have one? A new brand of bread and butter might just be the solution to spice up your writing energy AND you have your shares for a rainy day! But that's just from my perspective!

  3. Being the kind of practical person that I am...... How about finding yourself a part-time (probably contract/temp) job and using some of your savings to prop up the income?

    That will give you a new job, extra time and a fresh start. Write a few short stories (because if they're getting published it's getting your name out there) but spend some time on the novel too.

    (Mornings at work, afternoons on the novel, spare time for the short stories)

    Set yourself a deadline of six months before you think about it again. That way you'll still have six months worth of prop-up shares while you work out where to go from there.

  4. Madeleine - thank you for the big hug, it's much appreciated. I think Della's advice is right; my heart just won't be in the women's magazine market and it will show. Perhaps I need to find a balance - still write short stories for the speculative fiction anthologies as and when I have the time, but make my novel the priority. Why can't life be simpler?

    I'm off to work now. Joy!

    Greyscale - I'm so with you on a stale job breeding stale ideas, and stress doesn't help either. The only problem is that I'd be crazy to change jobs at the moment with the recession. At least in food retail the chances of redundancy are slim and because I've been with them so long I do get more holiday, discount, and reduced shares. But having said that, sometimes we need to take the plunge and do something different. A lot for me to think about. Thank you for your thoughts!

    MorningAJ - you have some great ideas. If I could just find the courage and do it! Like I said to Gemma (greyscale) the thought of changing jobs at the moment is too scary, especially as I've been with the company so long. And at the moment three of my shifts are late night (I'm off to work in a minute), so I do get three mornings to write. I think I need to some calculations! Thank you for your thoughts.

  5. Oh gosh - these are big big big life changing questions!! :-)

    I get the feeling you really enjoy writing short stories and are a prolific story writer. But I think if you have an idea for a novel then I think that should be explored too or at least started (you can always get back to it later!). Good luck!!

    As for taking a career break... I can't really say! I hope you are able to have time to think all your options through! I always say follow your heart but the heart is such a fickle thing!And I never listen to my brain!

    Take care

  6. I would say follow your heart but in these hard times, you also need to follow your head.

    Write for joy and the product will come.

  7. Work on the novel when you have time and the urge takes you, write short stories the rest of the time - but whatever you do, don't let the stress stop you writing, as it can do that. xx

  8. If you only have a certain amount of time to write then have if it be something you are proud of. If your heart isn't in woman's magazines short stories, then you will resent them taking up that valuable time.

    Dave Wrote This

  9. I understand your dilema! I decided to become the metaphorical writer; broke and living quite a solitary lifestyle whilst working on my novel. Was it worth it? My novel is still not finished and I need to go back to work.

    But what I have is satisfaction as 'if you never try, you never know'.

    Your post made me smile and realise that it is healthy to have dreams.

    good luck with your decision. :)

  10. Oh my gosh I want to take a career break too so I can focus on creative writing. But I'm worried about losing touch. I do freelance work so, once you lose the swing, they hire other people and then they replace you in the swing. I wish wish wish I just had the balls to risk it!

  11. This is a huge decision, but I think you need to look at your financial situation with your eyes wide open, with the way the economy is right now. It is so hard to struggle financially, to the point that you could be so stressed you can't write well. I don't mean to be a downer, but that is the first thought that popped into my head.

    As far as writing goes, do what you want. If there is a novel in your brain fighting to get out, don't keep it in. Take a hard look at your life and I bet you can find more ways to fit bits and pieces of writing time in. Even if you don't think there is time, good writing will come out no matter what.

    Keep your chin up! You'll make a decision that is right for you eventually, just don't rush into it.


  12. Returning to work after a holiday is always a shock to the system. I dread that first couple of days back.

    I often think I'd like to be able to give up work, or at least take a year off to write a book. Some chance! But actually I realise that going out to work is quite good for me because it keeps me in touch with the real world instead of me getting permanently lost inside my own head.

    Writing for women's magazines really does take up a lot of time. Although the stories are short, the market is so competitive that you need to keep plenty of things out there. It sounds as if it's the novel that's burning more brightly in your mind. Writing a novel is a different process from writing short stories. I've tried to do both at the same time and it doesn't really work for me. Maybe it's better to decide on one or the other. Try it for a set period, perhaps, then review how far you've got.

    Hope things become clearer soon. x

  13. I´m terrible at choosing between things I want to do. I always end up trying to do it all!

  14. There's no point doing what you don't love. Even if you are really successful in the womag market it's very unlikely to be a living and it could start to feel like just another job if you're only doing it for the money.

    The market has shrunk a lot over recent years, too, and there's nothing to say that won't continue (although I certainly hope it doesn't!)

    There's also the risk that if you leave work entirely, apart from the financial issues, you could find yourself cut off from the things that currently inspire you to write.

    Only you can decide, of course, but if you are able to cut down your work hours and you have a bit put by that would make up the difference in income for a while why not try that as a half way house and crack on with the novel that you really want to write?
    And if it didn't work out you haven't burned any boats with your job, either.

  15. Old Kitty - thank you for your thoughts. I've always wanted to write a novel but along the way I've fallen in love with short stories. So many decisions to make!

    Gail - thank you for your comments! My heart says career break and novel, but my head says mortgage and bills. Oh, well.

    Joleen - you are right about the stress, which is why I don't want to over extend myself. Thank you for the great advice.

    Dave - you are so right. I want to look at my bookshelf and say I wrote what I loved. Thank you!

    Sharon - thank you for sharing your journey with me. Wow. You found the courage and did it! I'm glad we share the same dreams as well.

    Jessica - it's horrible making such life-changing decisions, isn't it?! If only I could wave a magic wand and we could all have career breaks. LOL.

    Janel - you give such sensible advice - thank you! I know I would be stupid to take a career break at the moment, so I need to discount that option. The next step is to find time to write the novel!

    Joanne - thank you for thoughts, especially about the women's fiction market. I like your idea of writing the novel for a set period of time and then re-evaluating it.

    evalinn - if only we were all superman/woman!

    Bernadette - thank you for your thoughts, I much appreciate them. I have been considering dropping some hours and using my fund to make up the shortfall but with things as they are at work, I don't think I'd get the hours back when I run out of money. A lot of me to think about.

  16. Oh, Ellie, I wish I had a definitive answer. This really is one of those times when you have to decide for yourself. A full time job does eat up writing energy, no doubt about it. Have you thought of doing commercial writing for corporations, which can be quite lucrative? At least it is writing. The novel and short stories could be worked around the other. Check out the book The Well Fed Writer (recommended by Writer's Digest). It may be that it would be a good way to jump start a new career writing even it if isn't the fiction writing you love. I've thought about it myself, but it requires a fair amount of sales talent which I do not possess. Maybe you do!

  17. Lisa - thank you for the ideas. To be honest I think I would find commercial writing soul-destroying. It would be a great way to earn an income, though!

  18. Poor you, I can see your dilemma. I'm not sure what I would do regarding your job, but I know what you mean about trying to fit everything in.

    Short story writing is a great way to earn money, but you can never be sure how much will be accepted for publication, and writing a novel is such a thrill. Can you guess what I prefer doing? Good luck.

  19. Debs - I can guess which you prefer - the novel! Thank you for your thoughts, they are much appreciated.

  20. aaaaaargh! Late responding to this (big backlog of posts to read since hols!) and when I'd spent 40 minutes on my comment and it had got to nearly 500 words I knew I'd gone too far...
    ... so, in a nutshell... if any of us spent the time we spend online (our own blogs, other people's) writing our novels instead, we'd all be on our final paragraph write now!

    p.s. I'll probably blog about this in the next few days - so you know where to find my full and frank response! 8-)

  21. brokenbiro - don't worry about being late commenting - I follow so many blogs, it's hard to keep up with them all! Gosh. You are so right about blogs vs. novels. I've made 94 posts, and if the average word count was 300 that's nearly 30000 words!


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