Mark Terry

Friday, April 06, 2007

Feeling Lucky?

April 6, 2007

As Joe Moore pointed out yesterday, for every novelist whining about his life, there's another thousand aspiring writers who would gladly take his or her place. (What, Joe? That's not what you said? All that talk about hoofbeats and herds of writers? Well, I'm paraphrasing.)

If there is any comment or defense I should make about my relative lack of celebration upon receiving a book contract, it's that when you're a fulltime writer, your reaction to these things gets a little complicated. For instance, I signed a nonfiction contract early this year for three projects, whose total is 20 times more than what I received as an advance for my last novel. Did I celebrate? Well, I was pleased. I didn't dance around in my underwear to Bob Seeger tunes (or run naked through the streets screaming, "Eureka!" for which the neighbors are thankful). I don't know this for a fact, but I kind of doubt that most businesses throw a party when they receive a contract for work. I'm just envisioning road construction crew cracking open the champagne and caviar, saying, "Yee-ha, we get to refinish I-75 from 14 Mile Road to 7 Mile Road!" They probably say, "All right, let's get to work."

That said, I was walking Frodo yesterday and--this happens to me rather often--I had the thought, "You are one lucky bastard, you know that?"

I'm making a living as a writer, something I've wanted to do for a very long time. Not only that, I'm making a pretty good living. Bill Gates is safe, but I'm doing well. Generally speaking, I like what I'm writing. I love working out of the house. Let me emphasize that: I LOVE WORKING OUT OF THE HOUSE. It wouldn't be for everybody, but it works well for me. I can justify writing novels during my workday. It's not something I have to squeeze in during my lunch hour (been there, done that), early in the morning or late at night (for years, I did that). Sometimes I still do write in the evenings. The kids' book I wrote was pretty much written in the evenings. I often still work on the weekends.

But the fact is, I'm doing what I love and getting paid for it. It's a license to steal.

So yeah, Officer Callahan, I do feel lucky. Go ahead, make my day!


Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

Frodo? Hah! What a great name for a dog! Our little kitten was named Hobbit, before he became Ittle-Bittle and then grew into Iggle-Biggle.

I kinda slid into writing accidentally. I never really realized I'd always meant to, until I was. And then it was just another way to make money, a part-time job that just happened to feel SO right.

The first contract under my real name was a cause for celebration, even though it was less than I normally make. And even that was because DH is just so sweet and encouraging that he celebrates things like that. (I just love him; he's the best!)

Celebration can be a vaccination against burn-out. In general, though, it's a stop and smell the roses kind of thing. I mean to, but who has the time these days?

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

As of April 3 I've been working freelance, from home, for 13 years. Even if I wasn't writing a word of fiction and had nothing published, just being able to make a living without going into that soul killing office would be, to me, a triumph.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Absolutely. Before I got to this point I had the give-me-fiction-or-give-me-death attitude that I imagine most wannabe novelists have. And I'm delighted that my novels are getting published, that I'm building an audience, and I hope to someday make most of my income from the novels.

BUT, I tell myself regularly, hey, if the fiction falls through, if it dries up, hey, it was a good run and you're still writing for a living. Not bad at all.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Joe Moore said...

"So yeah, Officer Callahan, I do feel lucky. Go ahead, make my day!"

BTW, Dirty Harry also said, "A man's got to know his limitations."

I second the vote for working out of the house. Too many past days in a biz suit or tie. Those days are gone forever (I hope).

So, Mark, don't forget to paint your Easter Eggs so you can find them in the snow. :-)

Happy Easter!

2:52 PM  

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