Coffee heat rising

Creative Angst

Report from La Maya this afternoon: her partner La Bethulia, a psychiatric nurse practitioner, had accepted a job offer from the largest medical combine in the state. Notice had been given to and accepted by her employer that she was quitting her handsomely paid position to move to the new one. Days before she was supposed to start, the new employer realized one of her many certifications, whose requirements the State of Arizona had retroactively changed, was never updated. At the last minute, they rescinded the offer.

This caused quite the flap. Not only would they be out more (significantly more!) than half their annual income, La Bethulia would lose her health insurance, which covered the grandchild whose custody the two women have assumed.

Mercifully, just as their canoe was tipping over the rim of Niagara Falls, Old Employer came through with a new job offer: same position, same pay in a different office.

Wow! That one got the adrenalin flowing!

So it was that La Maya spent some time this afternoon holding forth on the restless angst we all feel about our jobs, a sense that she describes as “boredom.” La Bethulia sought a new job (at about the same pay level) out of this restlessness.

La Maya still works for the Great Desert University, an institution that has spawned at least one psychiatric therapist (that we know of) whose practice specializes in GDU faculty and staff. Meanwhile, over the past number of years, she has been studying art — specifically fine-art painting. Of late, she has passed a kind of threshold where her work no longer looks like the efforts of a talented amateur but instead, suddenly, has taken on the look of truly professional art.

She has begun to wonder if it’s actually possible to make a living — “a good living,” she puts it — as an artist. We know it is, because one of her teachers, whose work is displayed in major galleries and commands figures like 14 grand for a single canvas, is doing exactly that.

Meanwhile, I have this novel. Soon it will be ready to send off to Amazon. Not only that, but I have plot outlines for two others involving the same characters and setting and a third that we might describe as “something altogether different.”

The whole idea of doing something creative — something altogether different — and making a living at it appeals. Enormously.

I don’t expect to earn $14,000 for any of my creative efforts (although one of the earlier efforts, done on contract, did earn my client 1.5 million dollah in the first year and a million in the second year after publication). At this point in my life, I don’t need much. All I need is enough to supplement Social Security and defray the amounts I have to pull down from savings. That would be in the vicinity of, oh, about ten grand a year. Give or take.

Ten thousand dollars is not, in the large scheme of things, very much.

What independently published books typically earn, I do not know. From all I can tell, no accurate figures exist, or if they do, they’re proprietary. Some reports suggest income is very low — and, knowing how these things go, I’m inclined to believe that. Others hint that, over time, it’s possible to earn enough to satisfy those who don’t need a day job.

That would be moi: I have no desire to quit the day job, because I don’t have a day job anymore. However, it would be nice to see enough income to go out to dinner now and again and make the occasional shopping excursion to My Sister’s Closet, an upscale thrift store.

To pull it off, I’d need to net about $5,000 to $10,000 a year.

Teaching two dreary community-college courses a semester nets $7,680/year for me. Assuming a 15% tax rate on book sale income, I’d have to earn about $8,830 after expenses but before taxes to come up with the same amount.

If you netted two dollars on each e-book sale, you’d have to sell 4,415 books in a year to come up with the desired (minuscule) figure.

That, obviously, is unrealistic. At least, it is when you’re talking about a single book. However, I could churn these things out at the rate of one or two a year. If you believe fantasy writer Michael Sullivan and grant that his experience may be typical (a big grant…), it’s reasonable to expect one would start out slow and build up, over time, to a respectable but not stellar income. This guy started out earning around $50 a month in 2008; by 2010 he was making $2,000 to $3,000 a month. He thinks that’s not enough to live on (heh!), but then says when a book took off, he suddenly (and briefly) found himself earning 45 to 55 grand a month.

Well, that strikes me as highly unlikely. But two grand a month would be…well. Grand!

Imagine how many second-hand designer tops I could buy for two thousand dollah! 😆

But back to the angst issue: Why on earth would I want to throw over what I’m doing, which does earn the requisite amount, to settle into my garret and spend all my time writing up my fantasies?

I think La Maya hit the nail right on the head: boredom. Much as I dearly love and respect my honored clients, I’m mighty sick of reading and polishing other people’s work. I would like to write and publish my own work.

Because what I’m doing is not what I want to do, it often feels like more work than I can handle. Objectively I’m sure that’s not so, nor even possible – I’m not doing that much work. Plus there’s the problem that as I age (or as I become more and more cognizant of the boredom factor), the flow of things that need to be done grows more and more gestalt. Where before I used to be able to move steadily through a day of work and activities, now I feel like I’m jerking around from task to task, often not finishing what I want or need to finish before I go on to the next thing.

I hate that.

I feel vaguely guilty about doing the things I’d like to do – i.e., write novels, hike, goof off – because they’re not money-makers, or I don’t know whether they could be (but think probably not).

What I would like to do is not what I need to do. What I need to do bores me blind. It’s hard to force myself to do editorial, teaching, and bookkeeping work, because I am so, so bored with it!

Also I feel guilty about creative writing because it feels like day-dreaming to me. I suspect that, as a daily activity, it might not be healthy.

Still…if I could get a book in front of the public and see if anyone would read it, then I might feel more comfortable about engaging this endeavor.

8 thoughts on “Creative Angst”

  1. Is there any way to “earn” your time to goof around etc through frugality? Any way you could live on soc sec and savings draw down?

    I would try my best to eliminate at least one of my side jobs. You always sound so frazzled!

  2. Hi Funny,

    Given that we once lived two towns away from Stephen and Tabatha King, I can attest that a living can be made by day-dreaming. They were/are known in the area for giving back – grants to University of Maine as alumi, ball fields, etc. And just plain wicked nice.
    I, also, once read that many of the Harlequin Romance novelists made an ok supplemental income. Perhaps, you will find once you get your novels/books into print that income from that endeavor will provide you with something somewhere between an adequate supplemental income and an I can really retire and travel income.
    Best wishes.

  3. One of the problems with being an “older” woman is exactly yours: we have been pressured all our lives to do something “useful”, told that doing what we WANT to do is wrong, or bad, or something, that when we finally get ourselves to the point where we CAN play, well, we somehow can’t play.
    Give yourself some slack! Take a set amount of time out of your busyness to DO that daydreaming, WRITE that novel, and see where it goes.
    Somebody wise once said that “time we enjoy wasting is not wasted time”.

    • I’d love to. Just now, it’s just not very practical. I can’t dump a client in midstream and leave him to swim for shore himself — particularly not one who pays what this one does. Also, I have contracts to teach the community college courses — weasel out of one or both of those, and I’ll never work for the district again. Even if that didn’t matter (it doesn’t, much), it wouldn’t feel right to leave this particular chair in the lurch, after he has treated me so well. There are both ethical and practical issues that can keep one on the job even after one is sick of it.

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