Friday, November 02, 2007

Fast Money?

by Kristine Coblitz

I find it entertaining how the uninitiated (non-writers) perceive the life of a working writer.

A few weeks ago, I had a woman come up to me (name withheld to protect the innocent) and tell me we needed to write a fiction book together because she needed to make a lot of money really fast. I smiled and managed to keep a straight face, coming really close to telling her that she had a better chance of winning the lottery. She followed up by telling me that a better idea would be for her to tell me her story so I can write it because I’m a good typist.

A few months ago, I had another woman e-mail me because a friend wanted to change careers and become a freelance technical writer. No problem there, except that the woman expected me to provide a quick fix solution to changing careers overnight. I’m willing to help anyone, but I’m not a miracle worker.

These women were under the misconception that I knew the secret to financial freedom and happiness within the writing life. Believe me, I wish I did. You can bet I’d be telling my story on Oprah and sipping fruity drinks in Bermuda.

But we all know that’s not the case. I’m not going to Bermuda any time soon. My glamorous life is spent in my pajamas most days and counting my pennies to make it between paychecks, thanking my lucky stars that I have a husband who can support most of our monthly expenses. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t had to make some sacrifices.

Trust me, I’m not complaining. Changing careers and taking the subsequent pay cut was the best decision I ever made, but it’s not as glamorous as everyone thinks.

Tell me your favorite stories from the uninitiated. What are the common misconceptions about your profession?


Tory said...

Well, of course, everyone thinks shrinks are crazy. That goes without saying. They also believe we can read minds. Some people believe both are true, which is why they discretely sidle away after they hear what I do.

But, looking for the "quick fix" isn't limited to writers, it's a way of life in our commercialized society. My favorite was an email from someone who found my name on a website for a particular kind of personal growth work I used to do. He wrote that he'd been dealing with an anger issue all his life and listed over a dozen different types of therapy he'd tried. He wanted to know if I could cure him with 3-4 sessions.

He happened to email me right when my computer died and I was off the Internet for 2 weeks. You can imagine that we didn't have to dig very deep for his anger issues!

Gina said...

Everybody hates lawyers! They seem to think that we lawyers are responsible for the law, when really it's the jerks they elect who make the laws. Lawyers just try to make sense of them in everyday life. Even the lawyer in Jurassic Park, who everyone ridicules, was the only one in that movie warning that it might be dangerous to have all these dinosaurs . . .

After 30 years of practicing law, I see lawyers as our bulwark against tyranny. And yet the uninitiated yell at me about medical malpractice cases -- if people had access to affordable medical care/universal health coverage, maybe they wouldn't have to sue when some inept surgeon cuts of their child's leg instead of performing a tonsillectomy, and they're facing a lifetime of medical bills and rehab and other costs because of the medical error.

That's my rant for the day.

Annette said...

Kristine, it must be so gratifying to know that your typing skills were valued even if your own story-telling skills weren't. Geez.

I also had a guy call me so that I could "help" him write his novel, which was a "beautiful story" and we could both retire as a result of the book's success.

Still laughing when I think of it.

Joyce said...

I've also had people think I'm going to be rich when I get published.

People have all kinds of misconceptions of what the police do. Most things involve civil issues. Police only handle criminal complaints. They're not going to make your kid go to school, force someone to abide by their child custody agreement, evict someone, make a contractor do the work he was paid to do, etc.

Cathy said...

My work misconceptions revolve around two areas: that massage is connected with sexual needs/relief. (I'd be making a lot more money and not working as hard.) Second are the people who book a half hour massage and want a full body massage, plus I'm to fix their lower back, jaw tension, and sore feet, oh, and yes, push as hard as you can.

In the writing realm, I've run into several new authors who've just finished their first novel (haven't submitted it anywhere yet) and have a knowing expression on their face, like it will be only a few weeks until they hit the NY Times Best Seller's List. I just smile back and nod.

Kristine said...

I'm having fun reading your comments. No profession is safe, that's for sure. And if we can't laugh at these comments from the uninitiated, we'd go insane or kill someone, right? LOL.

Joyce said...

Just don't kill them in Shaler. I don't need the extra work.

Annette said...

Speaking of misconceptions, as a yoga teacher, I suspect that people think I'm going to twist them into a pretzel and leave them there. New students come in with a deer-in-headlights look on their face. They see the decor (paintings and statues of Hindu deities) and hear the chanting and think I'm going to corrupt their religious morals. So when they find out that I also write crime fiction, it's almost a relief. They see that I'm as warped as the next guy.

Plus I can't get myself into some of those pretzel poses, so I'm not nearly as threatening as they first think.

Donnell B said...

Great post. Boy you nailed the life of a stay at home writer. I watch my pennies carefully! Sacrifice is a big part of what we do to stimulate our muse, most importantly people don't often realize that the story doesn't just ooze out of us. Writing is the hardest most passionate thing I've ever done. Next time a wannabe writer approaches you, hand them a book and ask them to examine the page count, discuss literary vs. commercial, genre, point of view, goal, motivation and conflict, pacing, hooks and how to avoid a sagging middle. And as their eyes roll back in their head, I suspect that unless they're very passionate about writing, they'll stick with their day job ;)

Kristine said...

Joyce: LOL! Are you overworked, my dear??

Donnell: I'll have to remember that response for when people want to talk writing. I love it!