Re-booting the Writing Life

We’re mostly unpacked after moving to the new house, wonderful, comfortable, large enough to hold the above hamster wheel desk. The old house has a buyer, November settled down on us with sunny and crisp cold days and colder nights and I am looking at our current income with consternation.

A day job is not in my plans. I’ve done that, and I’m all done doing that. So I need to make money writing.

Aha, you say. What a crap shoot that is. Who makes money writing? Who supports a better-than-minimum income through writing? Who works long, lonely hours? Who runs their own business, agents, advertisements, reviews, book art and all? And keeping up with one’s blog.

Lots of people. I know these fine people, excellent, hard-working, talented and devoted to their craft. It isn’t easy. And it’s a full-time job, on-call, holidays and weekends.

I’ve had day jobs like that. I didn’t like it. I’m worried that I won’t like what I set before me, the goals I am teasing myself with.

The thing is, I love my free time. I love getting up each morning and deciding my schedule. I’ve spoken with friends who write full time. One writes every morning with the household rule of no disturbances for four hours. Then her afternoons are spent on marketing, formatting, self-instruction, reading writers’ blogs. She goes to fairs, bookstores, conventions to sign and sell. And she is not alone with this demanding schedule and self-discipline. And it’s paying off. She’s selling more books than ever.

It’s the work-life balancing act that is hard to master. I have been given control over it, if I want the responsibility, and I don’t know how to manage that power. So much goes into this writing gig.

And then there’s life. The stuff that happens.

Tools for writers abound. Online workshops, writer-written books about writing, talking to other writers. But accepting the life of a writer, full time, without breaks, weekends and holidays, that is the biggest hurdle for most.

But I am determined. I have been handed the gifts of time, good health, craft and ideas.

Now, how to take the building blocks of my day and give them some of that time, too. Exercise is a prime need, and gardening. Time in the sun and wind. Now, gardening is exercise, and often these two can be combined. Moving compost, raking leaves, sweeping the decks. All are tasks I enjoy—well moving compost is repetitive and boring, but it’s damn good exercise.

Walking tours of my new town, counting trees and looking in backyards. From the sidewalk, of course. Damn good exercise. I can’t afford the hamster-wheel desk, but I’d rather be outdoors. All this takes time and are necessities, like eating and sleeping.

So, what does that leave for writing? Mornings mostly, in my day. Then outdoors—unless it’s raining. Late afternoons, a couple hours looking for art, finding a workshop, reading blogs before dinner.

Evenings for recreation, like watching and then reviewing old horror movies.

You know, the fun stuff.

Oh, writing can be fun, like any hard work that, in the end, is rewarding. Counting up your words, like looking at your bank account grow, is also fun.

Now, it’s late afternoon, and I haven’t moved any compost yet. Better get to it.



About Jill Zeller

Author of numerous novels and short stories, Jill Zeller is a Left Coast writer, 2nd generation Californian, retired registered nurse, and obsessed gardener. She lives in Oregon with her patient husband, 2 silly English mastiffs and 2 rescue cats—the silliest of all. Her works explore the boundaries of reality. Some may call it fantasy, but there are rarely swords and never elves. More to the point, she prefers to write as if myth, imagination and hallucination are as real as the chair she is sitting on as she writes this. Jill Zeller also writes under the pseudonym Hunter Morrison


Re-booting the Writing Life — 4 Comments

  1. Well hello Jill Zeller. I’m wondering why, in all my wanderings, I have not read you? Seems we would be a good reader/author fit, judging by your description above. I’m an inveterate reader of deep mythic fantasy (think DeLint, John Crowley, want to like Wolfe (feel like I SHOULD, dammit!), but keep nibbling around the edges.
    Mieville really excited me with Perdido Street Station, but I’ve found the rest of his oeuvre kind of “meh”. Love Jonathan Carroll and some Hoffman, as well as JC Oates, Nalo Hopkinson, and Catherine Valienti, steampunk/gas lamp fantasy stuff like George Mann and James Blaylock write, and there’s more…found you through your writings re: The Transference Engine, btw

    • The Transference Engine looks interesting–I confess I had not heard of it before. And it’s nice to hear from a reader who likes to read the same stuff I do!

  2. Jill, hope you can add Orycon next weekend to your writerly thing to do. Lots of regional writers attend, often there are writer track panels and discussion groups. I’ll be there and I’d love to meet you.

    This year participation might be down a bit due to World Fantasy Con being in LA last weekend. But that just makes those of us who stayed home a more intimate group. Also lots of word of mouth workshop type things.

    Look for me in the dealers room at the B-Cubed Press tables. You know B-Cubed, you’ve sold us at least one story that I remember. Maybe two.

    • Oh, I wish I could meet you this weekend. However we must be in Seattle–follow-up visit for the broken-armed husband. Next time for certain!