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.