Mark Terry

Monday, July 14, 2008

Your Dream Job


July 14, 2008
When I posted this photograph the other day for a different post (and I use it a lot, especially the multi-part series on Freelance Writing For A Living), Spy Scribbler (AKA Natasha Fondren), commented that I must really like that picture.

Well, yeah.

But after thinking about it, I wondered, besides the obvious, why. Do I really think that I'm somehow going to find a job that's going to allow me to spend my days sprawled out on a hammock on some tropical beach and spend the day contemplating the blue sky and the beach sand on my toes?

It occurs to me--and it occasionally is reinforced by other people's comments--that I probably do already have my dream job.

I'm a freelance writer and I make a decent living. I get to work out of my house, my schedule is more or less my own and I like the work a lot. I have ownership of my life, or at least the illusion of it, and that's more than most people can say.

And yet...

Sure, I'd like to be writing bestselling novels that make tons of money and allow me to work three-hour workdays and allow me to have vacation homes around the world.

But when I put it that way it starts to seem an awful lot like a Lotto fantasy or someone who hops on the bus to move to Hollywood to become a movie star.

Also, as I was discussing with Leanne yesterday (and although she was listening, she was probably thinking I was an idiot), when you turn something you love like writing into a job, your attitude about it does change. I've posted here before about the notion that if you suddenly inherited a bunch of money or won the Lotto, would you still write. And I thought it was interesting that the people aspiring to be writers typically say yes and those of us already making a living as writers tend to be a lot more ambivalent about that.

I once read a column by Lawrence Block where he said if he discovered an oil well in his backyard he's not sure he'd write another word. As an aspiring writer, that really pissed me off. Now that I've made my living as a writer for a few years and had a couple novels published, I don't find Block's statement terribly surprising or upsetting. It now makes quite a bit of sense to me. 

There's a lot of world out there to explore and there might be other ways to find satisfaction than slamming my head against publishing's big, thick doors.

Or not. Because I do love to write.

One of the things that I think about though is that, generally speaking, I've found a way of making a living as a writer that allows me to stay at home, not travel except rarely, and do my work by myself except via e-mail and telephone interviews.

When my novels are published, to my surprise, I've been forced out into the larger world to do promotion, book talks, library events, bookstore signings, writers conferences, TV and radio interviews, etc. I'm not (to say the least) completely comfortable doing this. Nor do I honestly see where it has much effect, but that's a different topic.

It's possible (sort of) to be a novelist and do none of this. But you know, if you become a bestselling author, it's going to be pretty hard to avoid at least some of that stuff and my suspicion is, the bigger you get, the more promotional demands there actually are because, well, your publisher has a huge investment in you and they want to make sure you earn it back. Hell, YOU want to make sure you earn it back. 

So you tell me: what's your dream job?

Cheers,
Mark Terry

8 Comments:

Blogger spyscribbler said...

Dunno. Actually, I'm a restless sort. I often fantasize about working at Borders. I've been making calculations in my head, recently, about how I could downsize so I could work at Borders. Isn't that silly?

My dream job has no physical limitations. As in, we could live in an RV and travel the country for the rest of our lives. And, I don't know. I'm not sure I'm suited to much. Music and words are all I've done for 12 years. I used to be smart, but it's sort of faded into just music and words. I keep thinking of starting a tiny online pub like the two I write for, but I keep putting it off. Well, they were writers, and now they no longer have time to write, and they have to promote. I'm not 100% sure about going in that direction, yet.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

A lot to be said about the "be careful what you wish for" mantra.

My wife often says she'll retire early and go work at Borders part time.

I'm not entirely sure what I'm suited for either.

And I know what you mean about once being smart. :) It's the "learn more and more about less and less until you know everything about nothing" concept. I know a lot about writing, but I seem to know less about everything else. And some days I'm not so sure about the writing, either.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Having ownership of one's life is the big thing. But any job, you have some dependency on someone paying you so I guess my favorite job would be to be independently wealthy.

Knowing what I know now, bestselling author would not be on my dream job list. The promotion required would be a nightmare. I am uncomfortable doing the email interviews Mary lines up for us.

If I won the lotto I would write lots, but probably not for publication. I love writing I hate the publishing industry.

9:59 AM  
Blogger MissWrite said...

You know, reading your I have a dream job idea made me say 'hell yeah' inside. When you say that to people however (and they most likely agree with you for all the points you mentioned) what they often fail to realize it is IS a JOB.

Example: I do a lot of freelancing and my loving son who was temporarily unemployed petitioned me to help him 'do what I do' (I think he meant that as sit around on my arse all day playing on the computer) well, wish granted. Suddenly he was quite annoyed that it really was WORK. (Hey, did he think money really fell out of the sky?)

I've had friends with the exact same scenario: either they want me to show them how, try it and can't, try it and say -- hey this is WORK... or don't try, just sit there saying boy you're so lucky.

I agree, I am lucky. It is work.

If I won the lotto would I still write? Yep... but probably not the 'work' writing. I'd still write what I love. The cool part there would be I could do it just because I love it, not because I'm worried about making it 'saleable' or profitable.

4:02 PM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Yes, I've run into a lot of people--and relatives--who think they want to be a writer. Then I point out the basics of what to do and...

Apparently they're really not that interested when they realized they actually have to DO something.

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