At one time, when I was much younger, perhaps even as a schoolgirl, I had a dream of being a writer. You know, “a writer”, much in the way that children would answer the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“A rock star.”
At the time, I truly believed that one went to college to get a degree to become a writer and, upon graduation, one simply wrote a book, had it published, got paid, repeat every year or so, and lived happily ever after doing a job one loved.
Obviously, I was meant to write fiction.
As an adult, I discovered that all the writing classes in the world would not guarantee a successful writing career. Neither would any awards or prizes given in writing competitions. And, cruelly enough, neither would the advent of self-publishing which meant eliminating the pesky agents and editors that stood in the way of seeing one’s book in print.
Writing, as a career, leaves much to be desired (mostly, a means of paying one’s bills and buying groceries.) Yet it is a rewarding career if one has the passion and talent to at least draw a small audience to one’s work. The truth, however, is that one still has to have a way to pay the bills (mortgage and utility companies have very little regard for a writer’s passion and talent, unless that writer is Stephen King and the bills are being paid on time.) For most writers, this means having to have a “real” job, in the “real” world, where one must interact with “real” people, whoever they may be. And, as so often happens, the writer is not alone in living his or her “real” life… family, whether by blood or choice, also demands that the writer engage in gainful employment.
Of course, this offers a fiction writer an opportunity to collect material to be used in future work. Sadly, this means having less time to spend writing. Especially when work and family demands its fair share of the 24 hours allotted to a writer each day. Writing is rarely a 9-to-5 job where one can clock in and block out the world and actually get some writing done. When day-to-day life includes work, laundry, cooking dinner, caring for children or the elderly, and spending time with your spouse, it’s easy to relegate writing to a weekend or a half-hour interval when one isn’t busy (see, I told you I was meant to write fiction!)
And even when a writer does succeed in landing a publishing contract (usually from a small independent publishing house) and actually does collect a check (albeit small and probably not even minimum wage if all the hours put in writing, editing, and promoting are figured in), there is always a possibility of something going wrong. If a retail giant like Kmart can go under, how much more likely is it that a small publishing company will be felled by something as simple as the editor-in-chief/publisher having a health crisis?
All these things have happened to me on the way to becoming a published author. The hardest, to be honest, was NOT having my publisher’s health compromised by a stroke (although requesting my rights back to my work was gut-wrenching, since I considered my publisher a friend, not just my boss.) I was able to secure another publisher and my Black Horse Campground series is in the process of having new editions issued under my new publisher’s imprint. Currently, I am caring for my elderly mother and holding down a full-time job since I cannot afford full-time care for her (not that she would accept it, unless it’s from me!) As a result, my writing time is severely diminished. I try to write when she sleeps but I need to sleep, too! The sixth book in my Black Horse Campground mystery series is moving very slowly, but sometimes, one has to reorganize priorities. And I know that eventually I’ll have a lot more time to write and I realize that the time I have with my mother needs to be treasured.
Life is what happens when you’re not paying attention, so I’ve been told. I’m making an effort to pay close attention to every facet of my life, the good and the bad. And someday, it might be distilled into a day in the life of one of my characters. After all, a writer’s job is to make his or her stories true to life. What better way than to actually live in the moment of every day life?
Amy Bennett’s debut mystery novel, “End of the Road”, started as a National Novel Writing Month project in 2009. It went on to win the 2012 Dark Oak Mystery Contest and launched the Black Horse Campground mystery series, followed by “No Lifeguard on Duty”, “No Vacancy”, and “At the Crossroad”. “A Summer to Remember” is the fifth book in the series. She is currently working on the sixth book in the series.
When not sitting at the laptop actively writing, she works full-time at Walmart of Alamogordo (not too far down the road from fictional Bonney County) as a cake decorator and part-time at Noisy Water Winery in Ruidoso (where you can find some of the best wines in the state of New Mexico, including Jo Mamma’s White!) She lives with her husband and son in a small town halfway between Alamogordo and Ruidoso. Visit her website at www.amymbennettbooks.com and The Back Deck Blog at http://amymbennettbooks.blogspot.com