Opening the Door

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I’m about to be a full-time writer.

This isn’t by choice.  Like many school districts all across the country, mine is facing a budget shortfall next year.   A twelve million dollar shortfall.  The school board voted unanimously to accept a series of cuts designed to alleviate the shortfall.  Sports and music programs are being cut.  The IT guys who used to have one school to worry about will now have to take care of two or three each.   Teaching and administrative jobs are being eliminated and the teachers and principals who remain are having to take extra furlough days. My job has been eliminated as well. As of this summer, I’ll be a full-time writer.

It’s terrifying. I have to admit I am fond of that monthly paycheck I earned from my day job. Paying the mortgage is always easier when you know exactly how much money is coming your way, and when. There aren’t a whole lot of jobs to be had around here right now. I know a number of folks who’ve been searching for a while – the jobs teenagers usually take in the summer are already being manned by middle-aged former bankers. So there’s not much available, and being laid off in such a climate is unsettling. But the more I thought about it, the more I came to understand this is a blessing in disguise.

When the bills are covered and there’s food on the table and a few dollars left over in the bank account, it’s tempting to take the writing a little easier. Three  pages in a week? That’s fine, because after all I was working all day and was tired after getting home and supper needed fixing and the laundry needed washing and really, the money didn’t depend on those pages being done. I could take it as slow as I liked ( I’ve mentioned I’m a slow writer anyway) and not worry. Today was a really lousy day and all I want to do is curl up in bed and read until I fall asleep? No sweat, I’ll just write tomorrow. That’s going to end soon. My last paycheck will be issued sometime this summer, so I need to start cranking out lots more words, the kind that publishers pay money for. I have several short stories in various stages of completion, stories I can now give some actual attention. I have a novel that’s almost finished, another that’s about halfway done and one that shines in my imagination like a cave full of glittering treasure, one I can’t wait to get my hands on. All this to play with, and soon hours and hours of time. I know it won’t be all bonbons and coffee dates. I’ll have to apply the same level of discipline I practice toward the library job to the job of writing. No sleeping in, no noodling on the internet, no lunching with my still-employed buddies. It’s going to be a real job, with a less habitual revenue stream. But I’m okay with this. It feels like the powers-that-be are taking away my comfort, steering me in the direction I’m supposed to go. I could blow it in a heartbeat, but something tells me that’s not going to happen.

My media specialist is unhappy about losing me, bless her. My coworkers keep coming by to tell me how sorry they are. I’m sure my cheerfulness is confusing to them. They see someone being laid off from a job. But I see a door to a new world opening up.

And oh, does it ever shine.

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20 comments to Opening the Door

  • I’d say good luck, but I’m sure you’ll make it. The hardest part (breaking into the market) is done. Now you just gotta stay in there and if your future books are as good and fun as Mad Kestrel was you’ll do fine. Sometimes the universe pushes you in a direction, the direction you’re destined for, and you just have to go with the tide. Looking back on my own life I can see the constant pushing toward writing and most people who get to know me (and even some of my pagan acquaintances who don’t know me well) tell me that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be.

    I think the hardest part of the full time thing is making and keeping a schedule when you get up and remember that the dishes, laundry, house cleaning, etc, aren’t going to do themselves. The plants aren’t gonna plant themselves. The kiddo can’t live on sunlight and rainwater, though sometimes it seems like it with as little as she eats. Dinner won’t cook itself, unless you get take out. And with all that extra time to yourself you must have extra time for what other people want you to do, right? 😉

  • I second Daniel’s comments. It amazes me how people just think that I have all the time in the world. That I can just drop the writing and go do whatever I want whenever I want. Discipline is the key. And on that note, I’ve got to get back to writing! :O

  • Well, congratulations, if that’s the right word! It does sound scary but perhaps, in some way, it’s meant to be. Hopefully it all works out for you. I’ve wondered several times what I’d feel like if the same thing happened to me so I’ll be following your experiences closely!

  • Emily

    What a great post! I am sorry for the cutbacks, both for you and for your school system, that’s hard. But I’m remarkably impressed at the optimism that you have! You’re attitude is amazing, and will lead to more success I’m certain. Change is tough and scary, but you’re making it look really easy.

  • Go MISTY!!!!!!
    That’s not nearly enough !!!!!!!s.
    I totally hate the old saying that when one door closes, a window opens. (Being pushed out of windows isn’t fun…)
    But old sayings survive because there is truth in them.
    Life is pushing you toward a window. Spread your wings and fly, Misty. Whoowhoowhoo! Ahd hey…If you need a tea break, I’m here for you. (She said, totally selfishly.)

  • I can only add my voice to the chorus. I admire your ability to take what could easily be a painful and frightening transition, and turn it into an opportunity, a fresh start. I have every faith that you will be enormously successful. Turning your amazing energy and creativity entirely to writing will be incredibly rewarding for you, and it will be a gift to all of us who want to see more of your work in published form. And so congratulations on being laid off!

  • I’m with David. I’m sorry for the anxieties I’m sure you are going through but am sure you’ll turn this to your advantage as a writer. Will toast in Charlotte.

    Best

    AJH

  • Beatriz

    You’re my hero.

  • Beatriz

    (forgot to add– how ’bout if I only suggest lunch during what would have been school holidays?)

  • My wife and I just watched Up In The Air last night, in which George Clooney plays a corporate down-sizer. One of his lines he tells people who are about to be let go is this:

    Clooney as Ryan Bingham: “Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s *because* they sat there that they were able to do it.”

    I’m still sorry to hear about the loss of your job, but it seems you have already realized and embraced the opportunity!

  • Rock on, Misty, you’ll do fine. Getting laid off is much better than being fired for cause, because you get to draw unemployment for a while. Hopefully that will give you a ramp into full-time writing that getting dumped wouldn’t.

    Also, you’ve got all that energy you devoted to being a librarian. Treasure it, because now you can use it to write with. Yes, that means treating writing like work, but I’ll bet you can do it.

    Good luck!

  • Megan Haskell

    Condolences and congratulations! I loved your post. It’s interesting that in this economy so many people are being *forced* to follow their passions. I have several friends who have been laid off, and they’ve discovered a new way to make money doing what they love in the process. Whether that’s writing, designing websites, or becoming a full-time nanny, they’ve found a way to make it work. It’s scary, but they’ve told me it’s exhilarating at the same time. Good luck with it all!

  • That’s wonderful, Misty!

    My own experience has been that everything bad that has happened to me has led to something good. Including getting let go from a cataloguing position at one library to get my current, er, government library technician job.

    When stuff like this happens, I think it’s just the universe’s way of kicking me in the pants. May it turn out to be the best thing that could have happened to you in this scenario. 🙂

  • Hey Misty, it sucks super bad about all of the layoffs but it’s nice to hear positive thoughts come out. Always more refreshing (albeit harder) to keep ones mind on good things. Shows people what they are made of. Good luck with everything!!

    (And Faith’s right. Getting pushed out a window does hurt :P)

  • You guys are so great! I’ll admit I have moments of worry (the Beetle is finishing up his junior year of high school so college looms, the house needs work, and then there are those pesky bills that never seem to go away) but I can’t help thinking this is a good thing. I have my wings ready, so here I go.

    Thank you for the support, and keep an eye out for all the words I’m about to unleash on the world!

  • I’m sorry that you lost your job, but glad to see your writing will get so much more attention. Looking forward to whatever that attention produces.

    Good luck, Misty. 🙂

  • Chris Branch

    Misty, just want to add my thoughts – sorry about the layoff. It so happens I was also laid off in January after more than 20 years with the same company. But believe it or not, I found a new position within a month or so – right across the street, no loss of salary, good severance from the old job. So there’s no doubt I consider myself fortunate, and yet…

    …and yet I really envy you! I hope it’s accurate to congratulate you on being “forced” to write full time. I have no doubt it’ll be fun, exciting, challenging, but I hope that you also avoid any serious financial hardship! I should go out and buy another copy of _MK_ to help tide you over until the next one comes out.

    And maybe one day I won’t be so “fortunate” as to keep writing software full time instead of words. 😉

  • To face a formidable challenge with grace and poise, you show the way for a great many to follow. Lead on, Misty. lead on.

  • Wolf Lahti

    I wrote more when I had a full-time job not only because my time was more structured but also because the time I had remaining to me was more precious.

  • Here’s a writing exercise for you, take one of your heroes and ask, “What if he lost his job?”

    You might get a book out of it.

    Renfel looked down the street, his gold-plated watch dangling in his hand. Twenty years of faithful service reduced to a week’s pay and a cheap time piece.

    “Told ya he’s a chintzy bastich” the voice of a vagabond reminded him. The now former vizier nodded acknowledgment to the tramp, who’s name he couldn’t quite place.

    “And vindictive.”Renfel added, remembering the nest egg his majesty had confiscated for back taxes.

    With a nod the the tip of his hat the one time court official walked off down the street, checking on his secret purse (gold cladded lead coins, for the king was indeed chintzy) and making an quick assesment of the jewelry he was wearing. Might get a few florins for those at the right place.

    The problem was not finding a place to stay, it was earning the money to pay the rent once the severance pay was gone. Now what line of work best suited a one time eminence gris? Witnessing a tussle at a green grocer gave him an idea.

    Author’s note: That last bit came from a real life incident in which I once kept a young teen from temptation. The store owner hinted strongly she’d be interested in hiring me. I declined.