Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Writing Life

On any given morning--unless I'm away at some distant hunting camp or running my bird dog Radar or mailing stuff at the post office or filling out a slip at the Fed-Ex building to send something off--I sit down at this desk. This morning I drifted in at 5:30, and immediately commenced to working (that is, after I checked the ALDS and MNF scores, and weather for the day).

Today that work involved a destinations piece, queries for an online site I contribute to, a phone call from a writer bud, other e-notes to other writers and editors (including my wife), some tinkering with a project's book chapter, and time to fix a quick lunch before picking my daughter up at school.

On my return, with mail in hand, I addressed various issues that arrived in that metal box, then put this 'puter to sleep around 5 before helping my little girl with her homework. At 7 p.m., I checked back in, and here I am still an hour later.

Sports (my NFL/NCAA hoops/NBA fandom is not unlike a controlled substance) sometimes helps me re-enter the world, as all my other vices but coffee have been stashed and left behind in the long ago 20th Century.

"Do I have what it takes to be a writer?" students in seminars and others occasionally ask--innocently, for sure. For most, the answer is no, but I offer what encouragement I can. This is certainly the best kind of life for me--crafting articles to pay the bills, selling photos, tinkering with book chapters, teaching an evening or two a week . . . but for everyone? Sure, you'll do fine if you just want to publish something somewhere. Plenty of places for that.

But are you asking me if you can make a living at it? Don't quit your day job, the expression goes. Me, I do fine, but the ticket to the full-time freelance life is volume, quality, and speed of turnaround. My newspaper columns are due every week, and the magazine deadlines--along with the online material--have a broader window of conclusion. Books take longer, often a year, but surely four or five months at minimum.

Still, I make my own hours--so long as the work is done, in process, emerging into something I can sell to an editor.